Following a sudden withdrawal on the part of the (Kurdish) “People’s Protection Units,” the Turkey backed “Free Army” factions managed to enter the center of Afrin’s city, after less than two months from the launch of the “Olive Branch” operation.
Afrin’s military map under went critical changes, imposed by the factions’ rapid progress in the past a few days; they divided the area into three separate enclaves and circled its center, which they entered after an operation of a few hours only, at the dawn of Sunday, March. 18, according to the information that military sources provided Enab Baladi with.
The “Free Army” applied a plan that resembled the military scenarios followed by other parties in Syria, the most recent example of which lies in Eastern Ghouta, for the military operations were undertaken at different axes, reaching the point of dividing the geographical space, to control it in return for the least costs possible.
The factions, after seizing the center, directed their efforts to al-Mebatli district, the last among seven in the area.
Now that Afrin’s center has been controlled, the Turkish forces are expected to open a line, starting from the northern countryside of Aleppo to Idlib governorate, in which Turkey have already installed six observation points, as to follow up the “de-escalation” process, due to an agreement with Russia and Iran.
The “Olive Branch” operation started on the 20th of last December, which Ankara described as the effort to fight the “Units’ terrorism,” which it classifies as the military representation of the “Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (PKK), blacklisted in Turkey.
The “Units” had never admitted the “Free Army’s” progress since the launch of the military operation, and referred to the intervention as an “occupation,” accusing Ankara of targeting the civilians and indulging them in a state of displacement; their statements, accordingly, concentrated on the civil casualties and the sites attacked by the Turkish military aircraft.
For its part, Turkey has denied targeting civilians and presented videos, in which “Units’” affiliate fighters prevented the civilians from leaving Afrin, in addition to blocking the roads which connect the center to other areas.
On Friday, March. 16, Linda Tom, the United Nations humanitarian spokeswoman in Syria, said that more than 48 thousand civilians were displaced from the area during the military operation.
Tell Rifaat Awaits a Turkish Decision
On the other side, the Syrian regime’s control over the towns of the “Tell Rifaat enclave,” in northern Aleppo, has mixed the area’s political cards, for toady it is swinging between two possibilities ــــ to remain in the hands of Assad’s forces or to be the opposition factions’ next destination.
Last week, Assad’s forces and groups have made a progress towards eight areas in the south eastern parts of Afrin, on top of which are Tell Riaat and Menagh, under a Russian-Turkish understanding, according to the information that military sources have given to Enab Baladi.
The “National Army’s” spokesman, Mohammad Hammadin, said that Tell Rifaat’s file might witness action in the upcoming period, but not in the meantime.
At the same time, Capitan Anass Hajee Yahia, declared that the military operations at the Maraanaz axes, administratively affiliated to Azaz and Tell Rifaat, are dependent on “Turkish orders.”
According to Hajee Yahia, the current and priority target lies in an ultimate control of Afrin and the area encircled between al-Mebatli district and its surrounding, stressing that the action, after that, “would be directed either at Manbij or at the towns surrounding Maraanaz.”
Other sources expect that the area will include Assad’s forces affiliate observation points, under a Russian auspice in the area.
Syrian official sources mentioned that the regime has taken control over Kīmār, al-Ziyarah, Burj al Qalas, Bashamra, Bosoufane, Deir Jmal, Tell Rifaat and both the town and the airport of Menagh.
The sources consider that the regime’s control of these areas falls under the context of “preventing the progress of the Turkish forces and the opposition factions, performing under their leadership.”