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Pro-government fighters move into Syria's Afrin

Convoy of 20 vehicles with dozens of fighters enters the besieged Kurdish-held region but met by Turkish artillery.

Turkish artillery

A convoy of pro-government fighters entered Syria's Afrin region on Tuesday to support Kurdish fighters battling Turkey's military but immediately came under artillery fire.

Syrian state television showed video of the convoy of pro-government forces deployed to help fend off Turkey's assault against Kurdish YPG fighters.

"The Syrian government has responded to the call of duty and sent military units on this day ... to deploy along the border and take part in defending the unity of Syria's territory and borders," YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said in a statement.

State TV showed about 20 vehicles with heavy machineguns mounted entering Afrin from the nearby village of Nubul. Dozens of armed men were on the vehicles waving Syrian flags and chanting pro-government slogans.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the UK-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed "hundreds of fighters entered the Afrin region on Tuesday afternoon".

Hasty retreat?

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday his military would hit back if pro-Syrian forces intervened in Afrin to help the armed Kurdish group known as YPG.

Turkish forces shelled the government-backed fighters as they entered the region on Tuesday, Syrian state media said.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the fighters pulled back after coming under fire.

Ankara sent its military into northern Syria last month saying it needed to defeat the YPG to protect its border.

YPG, part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces umbrella organisation, gained control of large swaths of territory in northern Syria during an offensive against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

US support for the YPG has infuriated Turkey as it considers the group a "terrorist" organisation.

Ankara sees YPG as part of the banned Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long bloody rebellion against the Turkish state in southeastern parts of the country.


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