Turkish fire on Syria's Afrin kills 18 civilians

5.6m refugees over 400,000 dead in war-torn Syria

Around 20,000 civilians may leave Eastern Ghouta on Friday, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin told reporters. Turkey says the same of the Kurdish YPG militia it is fighting in Afrin.

He said the government and Syrian Red Crescent were coordinating to facilitate the safe transport of people from eastern Ghouta "to temporary shelters that are equipped with all the necessary equipment".

Few residents remain in Hammuriyeh itself but tens of thousands of others were still scattered across the southwestern pocket, the largest of three still in rebel hands. An elderly man pushed a bicycle piled with belongings.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that 2,000 people had exited the rebel-held suburbs by early morning. She asked for anonymity out of fear for her safety.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Turkish air strike "directly" hit the medical facility.

Once controlled by rebels, Hamouriyah is now being surrounded by government forces.

Thousands more fled Afrin, near the Turkish border, after Turkish forces tightened their siege around the Kurdish-run town, according to a pro-government station and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and the "utmost care" is being taken to not harm civilians.

A medical charity supporting hospitals in the Ghouta region, the Syrian American Medical Society, said doctors in Kafr Batna were treating patients for severe burn wounds.

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SOHR said as many as 20,000 people have abandoned their homes, with many still waiting to be transported to safe zones.

"They are shelling in order to storm (Afrin)", Hasakeh said by phone.

Turkey is targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a US-backed militia that it regards as an extension of the Kurdish rebels on its own territory. He said the streets are closed, and "we can't treat some of the cases here". The chaotic scenes Thursday were the most intense for a single day and were reminiscent of the floods of refugees trekking across Europe in late 2016.

Civilians in northwestern Syria, Afrin, where Turkey's Operation Olive Branch is ongoing, are trying to flee the district's centre despite the terrorist group YPG/PKK's attempts to throw up barriers.

The Syrian, Russian and Turkish governments have ignored a February 25 U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire for the entire country.

According to UNHCR figures, there have been almost 500,000 people killed and over 11 million displaced in the war.

"In the past two days, over 13,000 civilians have left Eastern Ghouta", the statement reads.

Amid the chaos, airstrikes continued on eastern Ghouta.

Syrian Civil Defense, or the White Helmets as they are known, said its first responders have been unable to reach the wounded in several other towns in eastern Ghouta because of the intensity of the government's assault. It said one of its rescue workers was killed in an airstrike on the town of Hazeh. It said Russian aircraft had carried out the strikes.

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