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Kurds, allies allegedly
launch attack on Aazaz

A rebel commander told Turkey's state Anadolu news agency that YPG troops attacked the town from the south.

Aazaz fighter. (AFP/Sam Tarling)

BEIRUT – The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied Jaysh al-Thuwar fighters have allegedly launched an attack on Aazaz, a key rebel-held town near the Turkish border which Ankara has vowed will not fall to YPG.

 

A commander in the Levant Front—which is based in Aazaz—said Thursday morning that YPG troops had launched an assault on the town, which serves as a key logistical hub for rebels in the northern Aleppo countryside.

 

“[YPG fighters] are moving from the direction of Maarnaz, a village that [lies] southwest of Aazaz, in a bid to [reach] the town’s only national hospital,” Zakaria Karsli told Turkey’s state Anadolu news agency.

 

“We are doing our best to stand up to them with all our forces,” he added.

 

The pro-opposition Al-Souria Net echoed the rebel commander’s statements, reporting that the Syrian Democratic Forces—a coalition led by the YPG that includes Jaysh al-Thuwar—had launched “a large-scale attack on the town of Aazaz at dawn on Thursday in a bid to begin capturing the town.”

 

According to Al-Souria Net’s correspondent in Aleppo, fierce clashes were ongoing Thursday morning at the town’s southern entrance.

 

Alaa Abu Omar, a media activist from Aazaz, told Al-Souria Net that the attacking forces “began their assault from the southwestern edge of the town, in an attempt to take control of Aazaz’s main entrance and the National Hospital, but they have [so far] failed to enter the hospital.”

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tracking developments in the war-torn country has made no mention of an assault on Aazaz, while other pro-rebel sites have stayed mum on the matter.

 

Hours before Thursday’s alleged clashes, the SOHR reported that Turkey allowed 500 Syrian rebels to cross the border into Aazaz as reinforcements. Reuters, for its part, quoted rebel sources as saying that at least 2,000 fighters reentered Syria to help bolster opposition defensive lines around the town. 

 

The reports came after Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said his country wants to secure a “safe zone” in northern Aleppo stretching down to key rebel-held town, while Turkey’s premier on Monday vowed “we will not let Aazaz fall.”

 

Aazaz had previously come under attack from Jaysh al-Thuwar and YPG troops on February 11, according to reports, however Jaysh al-Thuwar strongly denied it had made any attempt to enter the town.

 

Rebel lines in northern Aleppo started collapsing after pro-regime forces lifted the siege of Nubl and Zahraa on February 3, cutting off opposition forces in the northern Aleppo countryside from their compatriots further to the south.

 

Kurdish fighters and their allies have since taken advantage of heavy Russian bombardment to seize a number of positions in rebel-held northern Aleppo, pushing opposition forces back to a small stretch of territory near the Turkish border, including Aazaz.

 

The YPG and Jaysh al-Thuwar's advances—including the seizure of the Mennagh airbase and Tal Rifaat in the past week—prompted retaliatory cross border Turkish artillery fire starting February 13.

 

Syrian rebel groups have accused the two fighting forces of coordinating their offensive with Damascus and Russia at the expense of the “revolution,” while the Kurds and their allies insist they are “rescuing” villages from Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.

A rebel fighter stands on a burned out tank in Aazaz. (AFP/Sam Tarling)

  • manjarola

    The lives of both the Lebanese and the Palestinians are also subject to the ambitions of Iran, which fills the coffers of groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

    February 18, 2016