Three killed in clashes between SDF and Turkey-backed forces near Ain Issa

Map of Syria with Ain Issa highlighted
Map of Syria with Ain Issa highlighted

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Turkish-backed groups in northern Syria attacked the Ain Issa countryside in clashes with the Syrian Democratic Forces in which at least three of their fighters were killed.

The press center of the US-backed SDF said on Thursday that rebel groups backed by Turkey launched attacks on March 16 and 17 around the Ain Issa countryside in Raqqa governorate, including the villages of Saida and Mi'alagh.

During the fighting in Saida at least three rebels were killed and SDF fighters destroyed a military vehicle during an infiltration attempt, the force said. It’s unknown if there were any casualties in Mi'alagh.

“After thwarting the two attacks launched by the mercenaries (Turkish-backed groups), and forcing them to retreat and withdraw, they continued to bomb the village of Saida, Mi'alagh, Jadida and the M4 road in a violent manner,” the SDF said.

In early December, the SDF, Russia, and the Syrian government reached an agreement to create three observation points north of Ain Issa to prevent further Turkish attacks. However, fighting near the town has continued.

On Oct. 19, 2019, after a long-threatened Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria to confront Kurdish elements of the SDF, the US first mediated a ceasefire agreement between Turkey and the SDF. A second such agreement, brokered by Moscow, followed on Oct. 22.

The Russia-Turkey deal included the withdrawal of SDF forces up to 30 kilometers from Syria’s border with Turkey, and joint Turkish-Russian patrols in a 10-kilometer-wide strip along the frontier. The two sides have since carried out dozens of joint patrols.

The SDF also reached a separate deal with the regime in Damascus to deploy Syrian government forces to protect the border area against Turkish attacks.

Yet despite the agreements, Turkey-backed groups and the Turkish army itself continue to target SDF-held areas.

According to the local Hawar News Agency (ANHA) at least nine civilians were killed and 16 injured this week during attacks by the opposition groups in the Ain Issa area.

Recently, there has been an increase in attacks by Turkey-backed groups near the city of Manbij, in which civilians were also killed.

On Sunday, a child was killed and two seriously injured after shelling by rebel forces near the city, the Manbij Military Council said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense affiliated Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria on Tuesday expressed worries about the establishment of a fifth Turkish military base that was created near Ain al Issa, according to an ANHA report.

“The Russian side is extremely alarmed by the transfer of military equipment of the Armed Forces of Turkey and carrying out fortification works at the support points in the area of Ain Isa settlement in Raqqa province,” the Russians said.

“These actions violate the status quo, established by the Memorandum of Understanding, and undermine the efforts of both parties in solving the Syrian conflict.”

Senior Syrian Kurdish officials have regularly called on Russia and the US to pressure Turkey to abide by the earlier ceasefire agreements.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly