The special forces units crossed into Syrian territory from the southern Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay, local media reported. The new forces are expected to hold villages taken by Turkish troops from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as well as to take part in urban combat as Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch apparently moves from the countryside to the major settlements.
“Deploying special forces is part of the preparation for a new fight that is approaching,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish NTV. “The fight will shift to places where there are civilians, as the area (of fighting) narrows,” he said, adding that the special forces units have experience in fighting militants in residential areas.
Even though the Turkish operation has entered its sixth week, most of the larger towns in the Kurdish-held enclave, including the city of Afrin itself, remain in the hands of the YPG. Still, Turkish forces drove the Kurdish militias from all areas bordering Turkey, local media report. On February 20, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the troops would lay siege to Afrin “in the coming days.”