Northeast Syria: Turkish forces step in to stop fighting between factions
Following the recent take over of the formerly Turkish-occupied Syrian city of Afrin by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Turkish troops deployed on Tuesday in the region in an attempt to act as a buffer between fighting factions, Reuters said, citing witnesses and fighters.
Turkish tanks and armored vehicles took up positions near Kafr Jana, an area which HTS seized on Monday, and the Turkish officials resumed efforts to bring the warring factions back to the negotiating table, Reuters said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that "a Turkish helicopter has landed to evacuate Turkish troops wounded by the shells that hit the Turkish base in Kafr Jana" on Tuesday.
Violent clashes erupted also between Ahrar Al-Sham and the Third Legion, both Turkish-backed factions, as the former aims to capture the villages of Kfar Ghan and Baraghedah, SOHR added.
SOHR also reported shelling between HTS and Third Legion, without casualties.
HTS and a number of groups affiliated to Turkey's proxy "Syrian National Army" (SNA), such as al-Hamza and Sultan Suleiman Shah divisions and Ahrar al-Sham, deployed forces to Afrin on Thursday and clashed with the Third Legion which used to be in control of the city.
After a brief ceasefire brokered by the Turkish officials, clashes have restarted on Monday in and around Afrin between HTS and Third Legion, also known as the al-Shamiya Front.
HTS's take over of Afrin took place not without Turkey's consent, according to various reports. While Belgium-based researcher Hussein Omar said that the HTS's deployment followed an "agreement" with Ankara, Firas Kerem, Idlib correspondent of Asharq Al-Awsat, said that a recent Turkish-brokered agreement enables HTS to "establish an administrative entity" that will "extend its rule out of Idlib to the entire region in north and northwest Syria, including countrysides of Aleppo."
Afrin was occupied by the Turkish military and its proxies in 2018 in a large scale Turkish incursion into Northeast Syria. Ankara claims that it was an anti-terror operation.
HTS, a jihadist group that is the dominant power in Syria's Idlib Governorate, was the main affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria until 2018 and is designated a terrorist organization by the United States.