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Turkish agency says tonnes of aid sent to Afrin during operation

Turkey's disaster management agency says it has distributed more than 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid throughout Afrin since Ankara launched military operations in northwestern Syria on January 20.

According to a statement sent by AFAD to Al Jazeera on Monday, the agency also determined an area to potentially house 170,000 internally displaced persons around Syria's Idlib province, as well as Turkish military and allied rebel-controlled areas to the east.

Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters started the military operation into Afrin in late January to remove a US-backed Kurdish militia - known as the People's Protection Units (YPG) - near its border. Ankara describes the armed group as "terrorists".

FSA fighters, backed by Turkey's special forces and heavy weapons, captured the centre of Afrin on Sunday after the YPG, which controlled the city, pulled out.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the UK-based war monitor, said at least 250,000 civilians have fled Afrin since last Wednesday.

AFAD said it started delivering humanitarian aid to the region on January 29, nine days into the military offensive inside Syria.

Since then it has reported distributing more than 30 tonnes of food aid and 8,267 bottles of water in various sizes, along with hygiene kits, blankets, and clothing to 22 areas in Afrin.

Following the capture of Afrin city, the agency said it is preparing further relief operations.
'Displaced to return'

A senior Turkish official said tens of thousands of Syrians were expected to voluntarily return to the Kurdish region after Turkey's military offensive ends.

"Turkey will try to enhance the infrastructure and resources in Afrin after it is secured for them to return," Yasin Aktay, a chief adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told Al Jazeera.

"We know that many Syrian refugees in Turkey want to return home if a secure environment is established in their region of origin. However, others prefer to stay in Turkey until the whole country is secured."

Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed-wing YPG to be "terrorist groups" with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The YPG had come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the seven-year Syrian war.

It gained the territory after defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) while fighting in a US-backed rebel alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

US support for the Kurdish-dominated SDF has infuriated Turkey and created an ongoing diplomatic crisis between the two NATO allies.

Approximately 160,000 Syrian refugees returned home, according to the AFAD's data, after Turkey's previous cross-border operation into Syria - dubbed Euphrates Shield - which ended in March 2017 after seven months.

During that offensive, Turkey and the FSA captured the border town of Jarablus by the Euphrates River, pushed ISIL fighters out of the 100-km stretch of border, and advanced to the southern city of al-Bab, which was also under the armed group's control.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

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