Syrian Democratic Forces advance in Aleppo after clashing with Turkey-backed rebels

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG [leading SDF member] in Afrin bid farewell to comrades killed during clashes against ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Aleppo – The pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took over several villages in Aleppo Governorate on Friday. Yesterday’s push followed a bloody week during which Turkey-backed Islamist groups attacked SDF positions near the cities of Tel Rifaat and Afrin.

Military sources reported on Friday that the SDF had advanced near Azaz city, in the northern countryside of Aleppo, and captured the towns of Gharnata and Tel Madiq. 

“[Today’s] progress came after our forces hit the positions of Turkey-backed jihadists near Azaz,” SDF spokesman Ahmed Salman told ARA News. “The Sultan Murad group and other pro-Turkey factions were forced to withdraw from those areas under the heavy blows of our forces.”

Rebel fighters, participating in Turkey’s Euphrates Shield Operation, have recently taken over a number of towns and villages in Aleppo’s countryside. The Sultan Murad Brigade has operated as a vanguard in these operations.

Although the Turkey-backed campaign was officially launched to combat the Islamic State (ISIS), the overwhelming majority of their attacks have targeted the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the SDF.

“We won’t allow those mercenaries to gain more ground in Syria. They’re no different than ISIS,” Salman said. “We view both the Euphrates Shield and ISIS as terrorist groups, and we vow to fight them until we’ve liberated our region.” 

Ethnic Cleansing 

The Syrian Democratic Forces on Thursday accused Turkey of ethnically cleansing whole villages in northern Aleppo Governorate and called for an investigation.  Tensions between the SDF and Turkey grew after the Turkish government said it would take the cities of al-Bab and Manbij in northern Syria.

The SDF has accused Turkey and its Syrian allies of depopulating villages deemed to be intrinsically hostile. “Turkey, with its militias, emptied the population of al-Rai town and other nearby villages, displacing thousands of people and preventing them from returning,” SDF spokesman Shervan Darwish said.

“Turkey accuses our forces of the ethnic cleansing. However, Turkey with its allied rebels are the ones committing criminal acts,” the Kurdish spokesman added.

Darwish said that the groups being backed by Turkey are jihadi and therefore inherently intolerant. “Ideologically, the militias led by Turkey in Syria are a copy of ISIS. These groups are all affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib,” he said.

The SDF spokesperson emphasized that the Turkey-backed rebels are also anti-Western, unlike the SDF. “These extremist groups expelled the US military from al-Rai, calling the West ‘infidel and Crusader,’ the same slogans used by ISIS,” Darwish said.

“We call on the international community to visit the town of al-Rai and surrounding villages in order to investigate these crimes,” Darwish concluded. “The world should be more serious in the fight against the mentality of terrorism and extremism.”

Reporting by: Siman Jiwan | Source: ARA News 

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