Turkish official says first civilians head home to Syria since offensive

September 7, 2016 15:41

ISTANBUL - A group of 292 Syrians went home to the Syrian town of Jarablus on Wednesday, marking the first formal civilian returns from Turkey since the start of a Turkish-backed incursion into northern Syria, a Turkish regional official said.

Jarablus, which had been held by Islamic State, was the first town captured by the Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies in an offensive launched on Aug. 24. Turkey, which hosts 3 million Syrian refugees, has said it wants provide a safe zone for civilians to return to Syria.

"The formal returns have begun today. We wouldn't consider anything before that as formal passage. This is the first time since the operation began," a spokesman at the governor's office for Gaziantep province, which lies across the border from Jarablus, told Reuters. He said more would return gradually.

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