Confidential sources in the northern countryside of Aleppo said the Nusra Front is preparing for a large-scale attack on the areas surrounding the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The source says the Nusra Front has gathered groups of fighters on the outskirts of Mennegh city which is considered a crossing point to the first Kurdish town Nusra intends to attack.
The source told Arabi 21 that the town of Kafr Janneh is the first target in the battle preparations, noting that the Front has convinced the other factions that it will head towards Mennegh to fight one of Jamal Maarouf's factions located there. Maarouf is considered the group's most immediate enemy currently, but the the real goal is to launch an attack on the nearby Kurdish areas.
In a related context, unknown assailants previously carried out the assassination of a Nusra Front leader Abu Ahmed al-Mashhadani near the city of Tel Rifaat in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Kurdish activists, including Shiyar Horo, said the assassination of the Nusra leader comes at a "critical time". He said the attack in an area near the Kurdish town of Afrin north of Aleppo "leads us to ask several questions about the possibility of launching an assault on the city and its towns" and interpreted the assassination as a direct cause for a new battle against the Kurdish forces.
Other Kurdish activists expressed on their Facebook pages and social networking sites that Afrin will be a repeat of the Kobani scenario, and that the Nusra Front will pursue what the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) started there. The activists vowed that Nusra will face even fiercer resistance in Afrin than that which ISIS has faced in Kobani, or Ayn al-Arab.
Activists said airstrikes by alliance aircrafts against the Nusra Front now make it equal to ISIS and that this has motivated Nusra to react by attacking other Kurdish areas.
It is also possible that there is an agreement between ISIS and the Nusra Front to control the Kurdish areas in the eastern and northern countryside of Aleppo, so that the domination of these organizations extends to connect the north with the east.
Activists at a media office in the northern countryside of Aleppo said they expected that the next stage will see the Nusra Front take full control over the northern countryside of Aleppo and – if it was able to – connect to the areas controlled by ISIS. The time may come whereby the two forces merge and and this will raise the prospects for the success of ISIS they both seek in Syria.
Elsewhere, there have been violent clashes between Nusra Front on the one hand and the brigades of Dawn of Freedom and Kurds Front on the other, where battles broke out between the two parties at Faisal mill near Tal Rifaat city. The clashes caused many casualties on both sides.
Another source confirmed the murder of a Free Syrian Army fighter in the city of Mareh, which brings the whole area to a critical point that threatens to explode the conflict between the Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army factions in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer