Turkish-backed groups launch attack near strategic Syrian town of Ain Issa

Turkish-backed groups launch attack near strategic Syrian town of Ain Issa
Heavy fighting took place between Turkish-backed groups and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Nov. 23, 2019.
(Photo: Hawar News Agency)

Original article by Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan 24, November 23rd, 2019

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish-backed groups, with support from Turkish army drones, on Saturday attacked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian government positions close to a refugee camp near Ain Issa, the administrative capital of the self-administration of north and east Syria.

According to the SDF’s official Twitter account, the Turkish-backed forces had “launched attacks with tanks, artillery, and a large number of mercenaries on several [axes] to invade Ain Issa” since Saturday morning local time.

“The ceasefire agreement is once again being violated by [the] Turkish army,” the SDF stated.

Senior Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, also confirmed that Turkish-backed forces attacked Ain Issa with Turkish airpower.

“Turkey is telling the world that it ended the campaign against Tal Abyad and Ras Al Ayn to start new [a] offensive again [in] Ayn Eissa. [For a] gradual occupation for the entire North,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a British-based war monitor, said the attacks forced civilians to flee the area. This included civilians that were earlier displaced from clashes in the city of Tal Abyad, now under Turkish control.

Moreover, a new camp for displaced civilians south of the city intended to house thousands of civilians displaced by the Turkish invasion is also under threat by the new attacks near Ain Issa.

Chloe Troadec, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center in Ain Issa, said Turkish-backed proxy forces had “cut off the key arterial road linking Ain Issa to Kobani, and are trying to enter the abandoned IDP camp adjacent to the city.”

“Ain Issa is around 34 kilometers from the Turkish border and to the west of Tal Abyad, well outside Turkey’s claimed ‘safe zone,’” Troadec told Kurdistan 24. “It is located on the M4 highway—likely Turkey’s prime objective, a key arterial road for trade and aid linking western and eastern regions of north and east Syria together.”

Controlling this strategically-located city, or the M4 road, would enable Turkey to choke off the connection between Jazira and Kobani, she added.

In Kobani, “aid is already in short supply—with all traffic already forced to travel via Raqqa due to Turkish aggressions elsewhere on the M4.”

Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Center for a New American Security, believes Turkey is violating the ceasefire deal that was brokered in October with the United States.

“Ankara wants to control Ain Issa so it can isolate Kobani from the rest of the SDF held areas in northeast Syria,” Heras told Kurdistan 24.

“Ain Issa is also a strategic point to exert influence on the roads into and out of northeast Syria, positioning Turkey to be the ultimate powerbroker over a large part of Syrian territory moving forward.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany