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Eastern Euphrates region back to scene as Turkish military moves shuffle cards in region

Turkish soldiers from a mutual Turkish -US patrol near Tal Abyad- 8 September 2019 (Reuters)

Turkish soldiers from a mutual Turkish -US patrol near Tal Abyad- 8 September 2019 (Reuters)

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The “eastern Euphrates region” has returned to the scene of intense violence and fighting in Syria. A series of events took place in one day; a Turkish soldier was killed in the town of Tell Abyad, while three soldiers of the Syrian regime forces were killed in the town of Tell Tamer. Besides, an exchange of artillery shelling raged between the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the rural al-Raqqa province.

These events gave a stark reminder of the loud statements made by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, on 5 February. He said in response to the killing of Turkish soldiers by the Syrian regime forces in the rebel-held province of Idlib that, “the attack on Idlib is the start of a new era for Turkey in Syria,” according to Turkey’s state-owned TV channel (TRT).

According to the Turkish Ministry of Defence, seven Turkish soldiers and a worker were killed, and seven others were wounded in a Syrian regime shelling on Idlib on 2 February. In response to these causalities, Turkey fired 122 artillery shells and 100 mortar shells at 46 Syrian government targets.

Erdogan said that the Sochi 2019 agreement between Russia and Turkey on the eastern Euphrates region,” is not implemented well.” This statement seemed to be a response to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who held Ankara the responsibility of what is happening in Idlib and accused it of not abiding by the “Astana” and “Sochi” agreements.

On 22 October 2019, the Turkish President Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Putin signed the Sochi agreement on the eastern Euphrates region, which ended “the Operation Peace Spring.”

At the time of that operation, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF)and the SNA took control of both cities of Tel Abyad in rural al-Raqqa and Ras al-Ain in rural al-Hasakah along with their villages and towns.

Eastern Euphrates region…shuffling cards

During his statement, Erdogan also talked about the need for expelling the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the city of Tel Rifat in rural Aleppo and restoring it to its original residents. Hence, it is evident that Turkey is putting more pressure on the Syrian regime and its ally Russia concerning the eastern and western areas of the Euphrates to stop their accelerated progress in Idlib.

The Turkish Ministry of Defence announced on 8 February that a Turkish soldier was killed, and five others were injured after their vehicles turned over in the area of the Operation Peace Spring in north-eastern Syria.

Before the announcement of the Turkish Defence Ministry, Hawar News Agency, which is linked to Kurdish “Autonomous Administration” reported that the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units, the military backbone of the SDF, repelled an attempt to advance by the SNA and the TAF in the countryside of Tel Abyad city in rural al-Raqqa.

Hawar news agency added that the TAF and the SNA launched attacks on the SDF sites in Afdako and al-Jalbeh villages in western Tell Abyad countryside. Hawar also indicated to the battles that took place between the two sides, where the SDF was able to abort the attacks and kill six members of the attackers.

The SNA spokesperson, Major Yusef Hamoud, denied the attacks on the SDF sites in the rural al-Raqqa province. Hamoud, in an interview with Enab Baladi, highlighted that what happened was an exchange of shelling between the two sides. Nevertheless, Hamoud did not mention how the Turkish soldier was killed in the rural al-Raqqa province.

Hawar agency said that three members of the Syrian regime forces were killed in al-Taweelah village in the town of Tel Tamer in rural al-Hasakah.

It added that some SNA fighters planted a land mine on 8 February near a military patrol of the Syrian regime and that the land mine exploded as few elements of the patrol passed on it.

On the other hand, the Syrian state-run news agency (SANA) did not mention any information about causalities among the ranks of the Syrian regime in the town of Tel Tamer.

Moreover, the SNA did not release an official statement about targeting members of the Syrian regime in rural al-Hasakah. In the same context, Major Yousef al-Hamoud, talking to Enab Baladi, denied responsibility for the killing of the three Syrian regime forces and doubted the authenticity of what was reported by Hawar agency.

Al-Hamoud judged the reliability of Hawar’s news reports, saying, “whoever broke or found out that news of the deaths of the three elements of the Syrian regime forces must be the one in charge for that.”

 Military escalation is probable in rural al-Hasakah

Turkey was trying to control Tel Tamer in rural al-Hasakah, Tel Rifat in northern rural Aleppo, and Ayn al-Arab in eastern rural Aleppo through the so-called Operation Peace Spring, but its endeavors stopped with the “Sochi Agreement.”

The Syrian regime forces entered the town of Tel Tamer after one day of signing an agreement with the Kurdish” Autonomous Administration” on 13 October 2019. The agreement stated the deployment of regime forces in the Kurdish-held territory to prevent the advancement of the TAF that launched its military operation on 9 October 2019.

In November 2019, the town of Tel Tamer experienced many battles between the SNA supported by Turkey on the one hand and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units along with the Syrian regime forces on the other side.

These battles took place despite the validity of the “Sochi Agreement,” which was reached by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on 22 October 2019. The agreement stated the end of fighting in the eastern Euphrates region in addition to several other terms.

The SNA announced on 10 November 2019, the continuation of military operations on the axis of Tel Tamer to control al-Alia silos in rural al-Hasakah.

At that time, the SNA announced on its official twitter account “Moral Guidance” that its factions are fighting the SDF on the axis of Tel Tamer as a part of the Operation Peace Spring.

After long talks between Russia and Turkey, the battles ended with the entrance of the Syrian regime forces accompanied by the Russian military police to al-Alia silos in Tel Tamer in rural al-Hasakah province on 1 December 2019.

 

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