More than 72 hours have passed since the start of clashes between HTS and Faylaq al-Thalith (Jabhat al-Shamiya) factions in the Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield areas, under the control of the FSA, in northern Syria. Abu Mohamed Al-Jolani’s men managed to take full control of the city of Afrin and Jandares as well as dozens of villages in the region, after several FSA faction groups including Hamzat and Abu Amshaat’s Sulayman Shah group, facilitated the progression of HTS in Afrin.
The clashes are currently taking place around the town of Azaz, near the village of Kafar Janeh, west of Azaz, 11km from the town. Faylaq al-Thalith’s fighters are the only ones resisting the advance of HTS in northern Syria. In addition to that they are also trying to keep control of the areas of Al-Bab and Jarablus, to eastern Azaz, against Hamzat and Sulayman Shah factions.
Large numbers of fighters have been killed and injured on both sides since the start of the clashes. There are also at least dead and injured among civilians, including women and children. 4 HTS fighters were also captured by Faylaq al-Thalith at the Kafar Janeh front yesterday. PKK/YPG militiamen, positioned in Tal Rifaat south of Azaz, also shelled the Kuwait al-Rahma refugee camp, which caused 2 deaths and at least 8 injuries.
While residents and religious figures in the region are calling for an immediate end to the internal fighting, according to our private sources, attempts at negotiation have failed. Al-Jolani would condition the end of the fighting on the unification of the FSA liberated areas under the HTS Salvation government and the dissolution of the Syrian interim government of the Free Syrian Army, which in practical terms equals to a. full surrender. All this without any official reaction from the Turkey.
In January 2018, the Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army factions launched Operation “Olive Branch” against Kurdish PKK/YPG militiamen in the Afrin region, following the first “Shield of the Euphrates” of 2016-2017 against the Islamic State organization.
At the moment of the publishing of this article, HTS forces are gathering for a possible invasion tonight.