The Turkish army and allied Free Syrian Army forces were able to take control of the strategic Mount Barsaya northeast of the Syrian city of Afrin hours after the launch of ground operations from neighboring Azaz.
According to the Turkish Anadolu Agency, FSA groups were able on the third day of “Operation Olive Branch” to capture at least two militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — which Turkey considers a terrorist group — while taking control of the hill.
The Kurdish militia had depended on Mount Barsaya to bombard the town of Azaz, which is controlled by the Syrian opposition.
Anadolu previously quoted military sources as saying that the Turkish army had struck more than 150 positions and weapons storehouses, in addition to the FSA advancing several kilometers into Syrian territory and taking control of four strategic hills in the Sheikh Hadeed and Rajou directions west of Afrin, and the villages of Shankal and Adamanli northwest of the city.
The Syrian Democratic Forces — of which Kurdish fighters comprise the largest part — said that it was considering the possibility of sending reinforcements to Afrin in northwest Syria to help repel the Turkish attack.
SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told a press conference that they were considering the possibility of sending more forces to Afrin and called for international efforts to stop the Turkish attack.
YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of the conference: “Our forces prepared themselves and were betting on an attack by the current authority in Turkey.”
Kurdish militias control large parts of northern and eastern Syria, in addition to the Afrin area in the country’s northwest.
The United States has backed the SDF with airstrikes, arms, training and 2,000 soldiers on the ground, which has angered Turkey.
Sending reinforcements to Afrin from areas under SDF control to the east would require fighters to pass through areas close to Aleppo, which is under the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces.
Anadolu reported that Assad forces had opened a route for Kurdish militia fighters from Aleppo to head to Afrin. This has made it possible for Kurdish fighters in the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo to send reinforcements to Afrin through areas under regime control.
The agency added that cars loaded with fighters and ammunition left Sheikh Maqsoud for Afrin through the towns of Nubl and Al-Zahara, which are under regime control in the northwestern Aleppo countryside.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.