Nov 05 2018

Turkey to send 1,200 Syrian opposition fighters towards Kurdish militias east of Euphrates

Turkey is set to send 1,200 fighters from allied Syrian opposition factions towards the Kurdish-controlled northern Syrian territories east of the River Euphrates, United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Monday.

Turkey reportedly sent 700 fighters from allied opposition factions from areas under Turkish control near the northern Syrian province of Aleppo and the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin towards the Kurdish-held territories on November 3.

On Monday the SOHR published a report based on reliable sources stating that Turkey was readying another 500 opposition fighters to be sent “in the next few hours.”

The SOHR’s sources reportedly attended a meeting on November 1 between opposition groups and Turkish intelligence, who told their Syrian allies to prepare for a new operation against the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

This would be the second operation launched this year against the SDF and its allies, the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), after the successful invasion of Afrin launched in January under the moniker Operation Olive Branch.

Syrian opposition factions have played an important role both in Operation Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield, another operation launched in 2016.

The SDF and YPG had consolidated large swathes of northern Syria under their control after participating in coalition operations against the extremist jihadist Islamic State. Turkey sees the presence of autonomous territories controlled by these groups on its border as a grave threat due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which began fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since the 1980s.

The Turkish military has been bombarding YPG-held positions east of the Euphrates since October 29, days after a summit discussing the future of Syria attended by the Turkish, French, German and Russian presidents was held in Istanbul.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar threatened to “bury” Kurdish forces near Manbij, a town to the west of the Euphrates, on November 1, blaming the United States for the YPG’s continued presence in the area. A day later Turkish and U.S. troops began their long-awaited joint patrols near Manbij.

Despite the progress represented by the joint patrols, the Turkish military continued to target positions east of the Euphrates over the weekend. The SOHR reported that in one of these attacks, in the north eastern province of al-Hasakah, the Turkish military machine gunned fighters from the al-Sanadid Forces, an Arab group allied with the SDF.