25,000 FSA fighters back Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin: commander

FSA fighters hold a position in the Tal Malid area, north of Aleppo, as they prepare to target YPG positions in the area of Afrin, on January 20, 2018. (AFP Photo)

Around 25,000 Free Syrian Army fighters are joining Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin with the goal of liberating Arab towns and villages seized by PKK's Syrian affiliate the People's Protection Units (YPG), an FSA commander said on Sunday.

Major Yasser Abdul Rahim, who is also the commander of Failaq al Sham, a main FSA opposition group in the operations room of the campaign, told Reuters that the FSA fighters are aiming to expel the YPG terrorists from the town.

"We have no interest in entering the city only the military targets inside the city and the villages around it. We aim to encircle the city and ensure the militias are evicted. We won't fight in the city as we have no problem with civilians," he said.

"The task of the Free Syrian Army is first to regain sixteen Arab towns and villages occupied by the foreign militias (YPG) with the help of the Russian air force," Abdul Rahim told Reuters in a phone interview from inside Syria.

The Arab elements in the area accuse the YPG terrorists of forcibly displacing Arabs from the villages in what they say is a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing.

Turkish ground forces pushed into northern Syria's Afrin province as part of Operation Olive Branch on Sunday after Turkey launched artillery and air strikes on terrorist PKK's Syrian affiliates the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed-wing People's Protection Units (YPG), it aims to sweep from its border.

The operation also carries to goal of ensuring security in the Syrian towns to help locals return back to their homes, who were threatened by the YPG.

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