Damascus continues to pressure Kurds in Aleppo
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian government continues to put a blockade on the Kurdish-held neighborhoods of Al-Ashrafiyyah and Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor reported on Sunday.
SOHR said that 4th Division is preventing the entry of diesel, gasoline and gas into neighborhoods held by Kurdish forces, which is resulting in the electricity blackouts. Due to the blockade the local generators are not able to operate.
The local ANF news agency also reported that the Syrian government continues to cut off electricity and services to Tal Rifaat and Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo to put pressure on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to accept a deal on the Syrian government’s terms amidst Turkish threats to launch a ground operation.
The tensions between the SDF and the Syrian government also come amidst a possible reconciliation between Turkey and Syria. On Nov. 23, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has not ruled out meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reported Hurriyet.
It’s not the first time the Syrian government pressures the Kurds in northern Aleppo and Aleppo city.
In August, the Syrian government also put a blockade on the Kurdish-held neighborhoods of Al-Ashrafiyyah and Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo, and the Shahba area in northern Aleppo, the SDF said. This also came amidst reports of more contacts between Turkey and Syria on a security level.
“It’s hard to know exactly what is going on, but the reports that the Syrian government has blocked electricity and other services in these Kurdish-dominated pockets make sense in the context of Turkey’s escalation,” Aron Lund, a fellow with The Century Foundation think tank, told Kurdistan 24.
“Turkish diplomats and their Syrian rebel partners have said that Tell Refaat is the likely first target of an offensive, even if Ankara originally envisioned something much bigger that would also involve Manbij and Kobane. That also matches reports about Turkey’s air strikes in Syria.”
However, he said that Tal Rifaat is being disproportionately targeted. “It could be a ruse, or it could still amount to nothing if Russia digs in its heels and tries to stop a Turkish attack. But whatever the ultimate outcome, Turkey seems to be focusing its attack threats on Tell Refaat now,” he added.
However, he said Russia is “trying to broker an understanding between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Assad government, which would see the latter take over Tell Refaat, or some part of it.”
“The idea would be to avoid a Turkish military attack and demonstrate that there’s a win-win outcome on the table for both governments, in the interest of Damascus-Ankara reconciliation.”
“So what independent leverage does the Syrian government have in all this? Well, one thing it can do is to cut off service provision and access to Tell Refaat and the Kurdish-populated areas in Aleppo, Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiyeh,” Lund added.
Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said in an interview with TASS last week that it is still too early for a meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and Syrian President Assad. Syria until now wants the Turkish army to leave, while Turkey wants an end to the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northern Syria.
"Taking into consideration that Erdogan made statements that Bashar Assad should step down and that he didn’t see any other development in the events, the meeting of the Turkish and Syrian presidents should be prepared,” he said.
Reuters also reported that Syria is resisting Russian efforts to broker a summit with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.