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Executive Summary for March 29th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the U.N. saying $150 million is needed to provide urgent relief, Turkey threatening to expand operations in Syria and reports claiming civilians are being barred from returning to Afrin.

Published on March 29, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

U.N. Appeals for $150 Million for Urgent Aid in Syria

A United Nations official said on Wednesday that aid agencies need $150 million to provide assistance to tens of thousands of people who have recently been displaced in Syria, the Associated Press reported.

Those in need of urgent relief include some 80,000 people who have escaped fierce government bombardment in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, plus another 180,000 people displaced by a Turkish offensive on the northern district of Afrin, said U.N. coordinator Ali al-Za’atari.

“Finance is coming, but is still beneath the required level,” he told reporters in Damascus.

Meanwhile, evacuations from besieged Eastern Ghouta continued on Wednesday, with some 6,500 people arriving in northern Idlib province from the towns of Jobar, Zamalka, Ein Terma and Arbeen, the AP said.

More people are expected to leave on Thursday in another batch of evacuations.

Turkey Threatens to Take Action Against Kurdish Forces in Manbij

Turkey’s National Security Council threatened on Wednesday to take action against Kurdish fighters in Syria if they do not withdraw from the Manbij region, Reuters reported.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to expand its operations in northern Syria to the town of Manbij, where U.S.-led coalition forces operate alongside the Washington-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“In the meeting, it is stated that the terrorists in Manbij should be removed from the area, otherwise Turkey will not hesitate to take initiative by itself as it did in other regions,” said the statement from the security council, chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The statement also warned that Turkey would use a similar approach to Kurdish fighters based east of the Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor province. Although the statement did not identify which Kurdish groups would be targeted in the country’s east, the bulk of operations in the area are being conducted by the SDF in cooperation with coalition forces.

Turkey-Backed Forces Prevent Civilians From Returning to Afrin

Turkey-backed forces are preventing civilians who escaped fighting in the district of Afrin from returning to their homes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Wednesday.

Of the 180,000 people displaced from Afrin, which fell to Turkish forces on March 18 after an eight-week-long campaign, around 50,000 have sought shelter in the northern town of Tel Rifaat, which is controlled by Kurdish forces.

Families trying to return to Afrin are being turned back by Turkey-supported forces manning checkpoints outside the district, the SOHR said.

“Tens of families have tried to return within the past 48 hours … however, these families have not been able to cross toward the areas controlled by the Turkish forces,” the SOHR said.

It was not immediately clear why families were not being permitted to cross into the area.

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