Syria Daily: A Turkish Garrison v. Kurdish Militia in the Northwest?

A Turkish soldier in northern Syria in Operation Euphrates Shield, September 2016

Turkish military sources: “We are likely to kick off the operation to sweep [Kurdish] terrorists from Afrin this weekend”


Claims are circulating that Turkey is stationing ground forces at a base in northwest Syria, amid the rising possibility of battles between Turkish-supported rebels and the Kurdish militia YPG.

The claims put the Turkish forces atop Sheikh Barakat Mountain, west of the town of Darat Izza in Idlib Province (see map).

On Monday the Turkish daily Yeni Safak, a supporter of the Erdoğan Government, proclaimed, “Final Preparations for Turkey’s Afrin Operation” against the Kurdish canton in the northwest.

The site described a two-front operation in which Turkish soldiers would accompany the Free Syrian Army in an advance on the eastern flank, moving on the town of Tel Rifaat and the Menagh airbase — 15 km (9 miles) from the Kurdish center in Afrin — while FSA units would move both from the west in Azaz near the Turkish-Syrian border and from the east in the town of Mare’ in northern Aleppo Province.

Daily Sabah, also a supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, follows this morning with “Turkish Military Build-up at Border Ready to Target YPG-held Afrin, Tal Rifat”.

Daily Sabah repeats the Yeni Safak description of operations and, citing a “military source”, says that Turkey “is likely to kick off the operation to sweep PYD and YPG terrorists from Afrin this weekend”.

Without providing any evidence that ground forces are already inside Syria, a Daily Sabah journalist asserts, “Ankara has already set up dozens of military bases in Syria to ensure security, including bases in al-Bab and Azaz”.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told reporters on Wednesday, “In order to stabilize the region, the Afrin region needs to be cleared of terror elements and terrorists. Turkey is continuing to work with its counterparts to achieve this end, with the help of the Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization.”

Even if the claims of a Turkish garrison are not true, the reports could point to a substantial FSA offensive with the assistance of Turkish artillery strikes, armored vehicles, and special forces.

The YPG has responded with declarations of reinforcements. An officer told Kurdish outlet ARA News:

The YPG and SDF [Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces] today deployed more forces and armoured vehicles in northern Aleppo. We will respond to any Turkish attacks on Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan]-Northern Syria. The Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Islamists will be a main target for our forces in the area.

Both a pro-rebel site and a Turkish outlet say Russian forces have left the Kafr Jannah camp near Afrin, but the pro-opposition al-Dorar disputes the claim.

Tensions have risen between the Turkish-supported rebels and the Kurdish YPG as both sides push back the retreating Islamic State in northern Syria. Turkey intervened from August 2016 in Operation Euphrates Shield, helping the FSA take much of northern Aleppo Province. That advance challenges any Kurdish aspirations of linking the Afrin canton in the northwest with the expansion of their territory v. ISIS in the northeast, reaching the city of Manbij in eastern Aleppo Province.

Turkey considers the YPG and its political umbrella, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD), to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK. Fighting Turkish security forces for more than 30 years, the PKK is considered a “terrorist” group by the US, but Washington is a key backer of the YPG through its support of the Syrian Democratic Forces against the Islamic State.

The reports of a military buildup have been accompanied by stories of the arrest of “four PKK terrorists” who crossed from northern Syria to southeastern Turkey to “stage an assassination attempt” on a Turkish MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Russia: Our Warning Prevented US Strike on Assad Base

Mirroring a US claim that its warning has deterred another chemical attack by the Assad regime, Russia says its warning blocked an American assault on a regime base.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday:

We conveyed the warning to the top diplomats yesterday and the message was passed on. The Foreign Ministry issued a corresponding statement through its Information and Press Department. The US Ambassador to the United Nations [Nikki Haley] said yesterday that the US warning had worked, and I hope that Russian warning had worked (as well) and the US had not conducted a strike.

The White House said on Monday that it had intelligence of preparations at the Shayrat Airbase, from where the regime launched a deadly nerve agent attack in northwest Syria on April 4, for another operation. Defense Secretary James Mattis said yesterday that there were no indications of further preparations, indicating that the regime had been deterred by Washington’s statement.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference:

I expect that this time, the United States will take into account the need to actually ensure the non-proliferation of chemical weapons and will refrain from speculating on some intelligence data, which that is secret so no one may see it, in order to provoke others and create pretexts for new attacks on the Syrian government troops fighting against terrorists.

But Ryabkov backed away from Russia’s declaration last week that it is suspending deconfliction arrangements with the US, following the American downing of a regime warplane which was attacking units of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria.

I don’t think that Russia and the US are in a state of conflict. I consider that Russia and the US are not experiencing the best times in the history of their relations, but there is a possibility to improve them.

That’s why there is the need to be more responsible, show respect to the interests of each other and be guided by a joint agenda with the focus on the war on terror.

3rd Israel Strike Within Days on Assad Regime Position in Southwest

Israel has carried out its third strike in five days on an Assad regime position in southwest Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces said they attacked the position on Wednesday after a stray mortar shell landed in an open area the Israeli-occupied northern Golan Heights, causing no casualties.

The Israeli military fired on the village of Samadanieh al Sharqiyah in Quneitra Province, near the frontline of clashes between pro-Assad forces and rebels.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was visiting Katzrin — a town in another part of the Golan Heights about 20 km (12.5 miles) from the area where rockets have landed — said:

I said here that we will not tolerate errant shooting and we will respond to all firing. During my speech, there was errant fire from the Syrian side that landed in our territory and the army has already attacked.

Whoever attacks us, we attack them. This is our policy and we will continue to implement it.

Israel launched its first retaliatory strikes last Saturday, causing several casualties among Assad regime troops, and followed with more the next day. Damascus later declared that a building used as a hospital for injured regime forces was hit, without providing any evidence to back the claim.

See Syria Daily, June 25: Israel Strikes Regime Across Border

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    @SnowSox184 writes that US SOF are being positioned in northern Syria to dampen down possible Turk / Kurd conflict.… 6/28/2017

    Jim Mattis: U.S. arms for #Syrian #Kurds will continue after #Raqqa campaign #TwitterKurds #YPG… 6/27/2017

  2. If, as according to #Erdogan , #PKK is like YPG, then #AKP is like ISIS. Both groups have the same ideology. #Turkey… 5/15/2017

    [HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said] the ruling party and jihadists share what he describes as a “monistic and fascistic” worldview. “In some ways, actually, AKP is Turkey’s IS.” 12/18/2015

    Like ISIS, Turkish military attacks often target refugees […] On May 8, Afrin Social Works Council co-chair Arife Bekir told Firat News Agency […] the situation had been worsened by a May 1 Turkish artillery attack, about which the international community were silent.
    [] 5/13/2017

  3. This story is both hilarious and tragic at the same: Remember those Assadists troops that were fighting in Hama? How they kept on getting routed during the rebel offensive in Hama this year and keep getting ambushed around the Salaamiyah area? Well here’s an interesting article on them and note the contempt the Russians show toward them:
    Excerpt from the above link: ‘The officer addressed the practices of the Russian officers and how they insulted members of the regime forces and humiliated them with the monthly salary they gave them, saying: “The Russian officer who is coming to us from Russia, if he wants to tell you, ‘Good morning,’ he would start with the sentence, ‘We’re giving you $200 or $300.’”…He added: “Yesterday in one of the meetings, the chief of staff was talking and I told him we wanted bulldozers to make sandbanks. He told me that his hand was already in his pocket and said, ‘Why should I bring you bulldozers? You’re Syrian and you should bring the bulldozers… We are paying you $300 a month.” He also spoke about the humiliation the Fifth Corps fighters receive from the Russians, by shooting over their heads or between their feet and insulting them in a language they do not understand, according to the text of the message.’
    LOL! 🙂 Even the Russians know how rubbish Assadist troops are.

  4. #Observation: Interesting idea by interbrigades and worldonalert –
    The main problem though for rebels in Buniyan Al-Marsous (sp?) is: A) Limitations in manpower and resources. B) Maintaining logistics (see saturated targeting by Russian jets during the Hama offensive) of the operation after the 2nd or 3rd day once the element of surprise has been lost. I suppose for it to work the assault on the regime-controlled highway corridor would have to be large scale mobile warfare operations (ie temporary offensives to over-run regime positions – not to permanently hold sections of that highway permanently but hold enough territory close to that highway that rebels can get either maintain some kind of fire-control can maintained or can acquire enough of a presence to regularly clock up attacks on regime units through IEDs and ATGMs) not just in Deraa but also launch deep-behind-the-lines raids into Suwayda and all of this should merely by diversions to the main rebel offensive to isolate, encircle and annihilate all regime units in Manshiya. Lastly rebels might need to consider using weaponised drones in large numbers for their offensives, after all why should the regime be the only ones allowed to attack from the sky? Even then these suggestions might not work if rebels in Deraa – 1) Don’t appoint a general military commander for such an offensive to ensure each rebel group is completing their part of the plan by a certain date and has the ammo to do it. 2) Rebels in Deraa don’t coordinate (e.g. time each other’s offensives on the same day) their actions with the rebels in Quneitra.

  5. Looking at the so-called Airwars site, there is nothing about Russia or Assad dropping bombs on civilians, but reams and reams of rhetoric against the US, UK, Canada, KSA, etc. Obviously a biased post-colonial site, in line of the Marxist directed Stop Wars movement that did not ask for a stop in the Syrian war, because that would be “intervention in a sovereign nation”.

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