Aleppo – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Wednesday the death of at least 37 fighters from the Turkey-backed rebel group of the Euphrates Shield Brigade.
The pro-Turkey rebel fighters were killed during clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
“These Turkey-backed groups launched an offensive on the SDF-held town of Oulasha in an attempt to hit our security centre there. However, our forces were able to repel the attack after heavy clashes,” the SDF leadership said in a statement to ARA News.
“At least 37 members of the so-called Euphrates Shield Brigade were killed during the clashes, and four others were taken captive,” the SDF said, adding that their forces were prepared to face any such offensives by the Turkey-backed groups in northern Syria.
This comes just few days after the Kurdish-led SDF shelled Turkish Army camps in northern Aleppo Governorate, destroying at least three military vehicles.
SDF troops have been trading mortar and small arms fire with Turkish forces and Turkey-backed rebels for weeks.
Last week, Turkey and its allies renewed their campaign to capture the Manbij Subdistrict in northern Aleppo. They advanced into the villages of Ilan, Qart Weran and Nassir but withdrew after fierce clashes.
Repeated Turkish attacks on Syrian Kurds
On November 7, Turkey’s military shelled headquarters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) –a leading force within the SDF– in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Governorate. Military sources and local activists reported that the Turkish Army also hit adjacent Kurdish fighting positions in Ain Diwar village, in Derik District. Scores of YPG fighters were wounded in the hour-long bombardment and massive material damage was reported.
“The [ruling Justice and Development Party] and its allies are trying to hit the Kurdish forces in Syria in support of Islamic State terrorists,” a YPG officer told ARA News. The YPG’s leadership said the Turkish bombardment on Ain Diwar continued for one hour, halting after the YPG returned fire. “Our forces responded to the attack by launching several shells, targeting the source of the fire. Only then did the Turkish offensive stop,” they said.
On November 19, at least 12 Kurdish members of the SDF were killed under attacks by Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria. Supported by Turkey’s military forces, Syrian rebels of the Euphrates Shield Bridges reportedly bombed YPG headquarters near the Qereh Dagh town in Aleppo Governorate.
Dilovan Mirkhani, a media activist accompanying the YPG forces in Aleppo Governorate, said that the Turkish offensive was aimed at impeding the YPG progress against ISIS. “Turkey’s military and their allied Euphrates Shield rebels have repeatedly targeted the YPG positions in a bid to undermine the Kurdish advance against ISIS in northern Syria,” Mirkhani told ARA News. “However, the YPG and other factions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remained committed to the fight against ISIS and continued their military operations on different fronts, including northern Aleppo.”
On November 20, Turkish forces launched air raids and artillery strikes on Sunday evening, targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) positions near Manbij city. The SDF sustained a handful of casualties and their local headquarters was damaged.
On November 21, clashes broke out between the SDF and Turkish forces, participating in the Euphrates Shield Operation. The fighting continued for nearly two days, as combatants traded mortar and small arms fire. The Turkish protracted artillery and mortar barrage killed at least five SDF fighters and wounded several others. Furthermore, Turkey-backed rebels fought to dislodge the SDF from Manbij’s western countryside, employing small and medium weapons.
Battle for al-Bab
In the meantime, the battle for the ISIS-held al-Bab city expanded, as both Turkey-backed rebels and Syrian Democratic Forces rushed towards the city.
While the Kurdish-led SDF want to secure the city in order connect the Afrin and Kobane canton administrations, Turkey’s main goal in northern Syrian is to prevent Kurdish contiguity. These objectives are irreconcilable.
Colonel John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, called on the SDF and Turkey last week, telling them to coordinate their operations against the Islamic State. “We believe that all of the operations in Syria against Daesh should be coordinated, very closely, between all the parties that are involved,” he said.
According to the coalition’s spokesman, deconfliction measures are in place to prevent the SDF and Turkey-backed rebel forces from “converging in a way that would be unhelpful.”
However, tensions have escalated from words, to artillery duels, to close quarters combat, without any direct intervention by the US-led coalition.
Reporting by: Helin Saeed and Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News