The Turkish military dropped Friday leaflets on northwestern Syria's Afrin, urging locals to not allow themselves to be used as human shields and stay away from PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorist targets and saying that those who want to leave are under the protection of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
The Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces on Friday also liberated nine more villages and three strategic hills in northwestern Syria's Afrin.
With the latest advancement, the Turkish army and the FSA have assumed control of at least three-fourths of the city from the PKK's Syrian affiliates, the People's Protection Units (YPG).
Miske Fawkani, Miske Tahtani, Shaykh Bilal, Kurdane, Kucuk Meydan and Koliye Jorin in Rajo, as well as Kokana and Darkir in Mabatli, were among the recently liberated villages.
Since the launch of Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish and FSA forces have liberated some 261 locations, including 217 villages and 44 strategic mountains and hills.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed Friday that three-fourths of Afrin has so far been liberated in Operation Olive Branch.
Speaking at a local congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Erzurum, Erdoğan said Turkey has solved the Afrin issue to a great extent.
Meanwhile another statement by the military released earlier in the day said that at least 3,530 terrorists have been "neutralized" in Operation Olive Branch since it was launched on Jan. 20.
TSK uses the term "neutralized" in reference to terrorists captured dead or alive, or those who surrendered during the operations. However, the term is usually used for the terrorists who were killed in the operations.
Operation Olive Branch was launched by Turkey to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and in the region as well as to protect Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights within international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said, "utmost importance" is being placed on not harming any civilians.
The operation in Afrin – bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces – was widely expected in the wake of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which cleared Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border between Aug. 24, 2016, and March 2017.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.
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