Turkish-backed forces advanced against Kurdish forces in northwestern on Wednesday, linking up areas of their control in despite the recent arrival of pro-government militias to the canton, military sources told Direct.

Free n Army (FSA) forces captured three towns from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) along the border between canton and southern on Wednesday, rebel commanders told Direct.

Wednesday’s advances came after Turkish-backed FSA fighters were reportedly able to link existing pockets of their territory on the northern and western edges of on Tuesday and draw closer to taking full control of the canton’s border with .

Capturing a strip of territory inside ’s border with would not only reduce the size of the Kurdish-administered canton, but also connect FSA territory in northern province, just east of , with opposition stronghold Idlib province to the south of the canton.

The latest FSA advances come within ’s Operation Olive Branch, launched approximately one month ago with the aim of ousting the Kurdish YPG militia from its territory in northwestern .

In response to attacks by Turkish-backed forces on in recent weeks, hundreds of pro-government fighters arrived at the Kurdish-held canton on Tuesday

So far, at least 500 fighters with government-aligned “popular committees” have entered to “fulfill their role in protecting n territory,” a commander with the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in told Direct.

Direct previously reported that 4,000 militiamen entered , but the YPG commander clarified that 4,ooo is the total number of fighters expected to arrive in “successive groups” over the course of a 10-day period. Two groups have arrived so far, n state news agency SANA reported.

Pro-government fighters present in were deployed “to all borders, clash points and the fronts with ,” on Wednesday, the YPG commander told Direct. The commander requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Abu al-Majd Komaleh, a member of a Kurdish FSA brigade participating in Operation Olive Branch, told Direct on Wednesday that he was “not sure” whether direct clashes with pro-government forces had occured. “We don’t know who is on the other side,” he said.

Olive Branch operations “are continuing at the same pace, despite what has been said about the arrival of regime forces,” an FSA spokesman for the operation told Direct on Wednesday, requesting anonymity.

As pro-government fighters entered on Tuesday to support the YPG, Ankara sent 1,200 commandos with the Turkish special forces to the n border on Tuesday to shore up its own fighters there, Turkish-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The same day, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish military “will lay siege to city,” Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Erdogan stated a siege of the city would take place “in the coming days,” adding that Turkish troops and FSA fighters were “advancing slowly because of the army’s sensitivity about avoiding civilian casualties.”

At least 100 civilians have been killed in since Operation Olive Branch began, according to the UK-based monitoring group n Observatory for Human Rights.

Originally published in http://syriadirect.org/news/turkish-backed-forces-advance-in-afrin-despite-entry-of-pro-government-militias/