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Syrian Kurds: Turkish attacks on Afrin kill 20

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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria’s seven-year civil war (all times local):

Syrian Kurdish forces say that Turkish shelling and airstrikes in the northern Syrian town of Afrin have killed at least 20 civilians.

Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, also says 30 people have been wounded as Turkish forces shelled the Ashrafieh neighborhood of the town on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitors put the death toll at 18. It released a video showing four lifeless bodies lying on the streets of Afrin.

Turkish forces have nearly encircled Afrin in an effort to drive out Kurdish fighters from the town and the surrounding region. Residents say they are facing bread, water, and electricity shortages.

Hundreds of civilians were seen leaving the town to neighboring villages on Thursday looking for relief. Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to still be inside.

Turkey’s military says it’s dropped flyers in Arabic and Kurdish on the northern Syrian town of Afrin, asking residents to stay away from “terrorist positions” and urging Syrian Kurdish militiamen to surrender.

The fliers were dropped on Friday as Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition fighters press Ankara’s seven-week offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish forces from the enclave of Afrin and its main town of the same name.

The leaflets say Afrin civilians wanting to leave would be “under the guarantee” of the Turkish military. They also call on locals not to allow themselves to be used as “human shields.”

The leaflets urge Syrian Kurdish fighters to “trust the hand we extend to you.” They say: “Come surrender! A calm and peaceful future awaits you in Afrin.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the Russian military and the Syrian government are extending a cease-fire in Damascus’ rebel-held suburbs as long as it takes to allow all the civilians to leave the area.

Lavrov spoke in Kazakhstan on Friday, saying the cease-fire will be extended “until all (civilians) leave” the enclave known as eastern Ghouta.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that 2,000 people had exited the rebel-held suburbs by early morning.

Thursday saw the largest single-day exodus of civilians in Syria’s civil war. Tens of thousands emerged from Hamouria and other opposition towns to escape the onslaught.

The civilians were fleeing as Syrian government troops, backed by Russian aircraft, pushed further into eastern Ghouta.

Elsehwere, Turkish forces are pushing their way into the northern Kurdish-held town of Afrin.(Agencies)

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