On June 19, a joint force of al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement advanced deep into the Turkish occupied area of Afrin in the northern countryside of Syria’s Aleppo in a bid to mount more pressure on the al-Shamiya Front.
The force entered Afrin a day earlier in response to an attack by al-Shamiya and other factions of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) on key positions of Ahrar al-Sham in the villages of Tall Battal and Abla, which are also located in the northern Aleppo countryside.
Ahrar al-Sham is a faction of the SNA. However, it was accused by al-Shamiya and several other factions of the bogus coalition of acting as a front for HTS, which rules over the Greater Idlib region, in Turkish-occupied areas. A dispute over territory is thought to be the real reason behind the conflict.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, HTS and Ahrar al-Sham took control of the towns of Basuta, Muhammadiyah, Ghazawiya, Qaryazhel and Ain Dara in Afrin without facing any real resistance from SNA factions. Their joint force is currently situated just a few kilometers to the south of Afrin city center.
Ahrar al-Sham was also able to push al-Shamiya out from both Tall Battal and Abla. However, clashes are still taking place there.
So far, the intra-rebel battle in the northern Aleppo countryside has claimed the lives of eight people, including four civilians. At least 11 others were wounded.
Syrian opposition activists talked about ongoing efforts by the Turkish intelligence to end the conflict. An agreement that would see the situation in the northern Aleppo countryside return back to normal is reportedly near. Despite this, Turkey appears to be preparing for the worst. Turkish combat drones have been already spotted over Afrin.
The ongoing battle highlights HTS attempts to expand its influence into Turkish-occupied areas in Syria. Kurdish forces, which were pushed out from Afrin by the Turkish military and its proxies early on in 2018, have warned of the terrorist group’s ambition on many occasions. However, Turkey and the US-led coalition do not appear to be interested in fighting the group.
Source: South Front