By Mohamed Misto and Selen Temizer
AFRIN/ANKARA (AA) - The PYD/PKK terrorist group sent an estimated 500 terrorists from Syria's Hasakah and Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) areas to Afrin under the guise of "civilian solidarity visits", sources in Afrin and Hasakah reported Tuesday.
Last week, the terrorist group announced plans to arrange a "civilian solidarity convoy" from PYD/PKK-held parts of northern Syria to Afrin, where Turkish troops are now deployed within the framework of Operation Olive Branch.
The sources, whose names have been withheld due to security concerns, said that numerous individuals had left the PYD/PKK-held Qamishli, Darbasiyah, Malikiya, Hasakah and Kathaniya settlements on Monday for Ayn al-Arab near Syria’s border with Turkey.
Comprised of hundreds of cars and buses, their convoy joined other vehicles waiting at Ayn al-Arab before moving into Afrin late Monday night.
The convoy, which used regime-controlled roads to enter Afrin, carried at least 2,000 people, sources say.
According to reliable sources in Afrin, a number of those in the convoy were volunteers. A significant portion of others, however, were civil servants and students forced by the PYD/PKK to take part in the exercise.
The convoy also reportedly included roughly 500 terrorists from various PYD/PKK-held areas.
Late last month, the PYD/PKK organized several demonstrations under the banner of “Solidarity with Afrin”, in which civil servants and students were forced to participate, while shops in the area were forced to temporarily close their doors.
On Jan. 21, the Assad regime allowed PYD/PKK terrorists in Aleppo to use regime-held roads to send arms deliveries to Afrin.
Turkey, with the support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 with the stated aim of clearing PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin.
Since the operation began, the PYD/PKK has carried out several cross-border attacks on Turkey, firing rockets into residential neighborhoods.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the ongoing operation aims to secure northern Syria’s border region with Turkey and protect the civilian population from PYD/PKK terrorists.
The operation is being carried out in line with international law; past UN Security Council resolutions; the right to self-defense as enshrined in the UN charter; and respect for Syria's territorial integrity.
The Turkish military has stressed that only terrorist sites and positions are being targeted while the "utmost importance" has been attached to avoiding civilian casualties.
Afrin has been a stronghold for the PYD/PKK since mid-2012, when Syrian regime forces withdrew from the area allowing the terrorist group to fill the vacuum.