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20 Turkish tanks enter northern Syria amid gov't condemnation

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DAMASCUS: Twenty Turkish tanks entered northern Syria on Saturday to support rebels in their fight to capture a town from Kurdish-led fighters, amid condemnation and threats from the Syrian government.

The Turkish tanks crossed the border into the northern countryside of the northern city of Aleppo, in a bid to help the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) capture the town of Tal Rifaat, close to the Turkish border, from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which they have recently taken from the Islamic State (IS) group, according to the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV.
The Turkey-backed FSA has been engaged in a battle dubbed the Euphrates Shield, which is primarily aiming at stripping the IS from key ground in northern Syria and fill the void, in order to put an end to the expansion of the SDF, something Ankara has been keen to achieve, due to its fear of a Kurdish influence near its borders.
At some point, a confrontation between the Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led ones seemed inevitable, due to Ankara's main aim to thwart the momentum of the Kurds.
A day earlier, the FSA announced its move against Tal Rifaat, and Ankara backed it up with 20 tanks, which raised the ire of the Syrian government, which has seemingly got fed up with Turkey's "flagrant violation."
Following the entry of the Turkish tanks, the Genera Command of the Syrian army released a statement, condemning the Turkish infiltration.
It said the Turkish government continues to provide direct support to the terrorists by backing them with artillery fire and tanks "to continue their crimes against civilians" in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
"This new aggressive stance is another dangerous escalation and a clear violation of the sovereignty of Syria," it said.
The statement further warned that "any presence of the Turkish army inside the Syrian border will be dealt with as an occupation power and we will respond to it by all possible means."
This comes as the Syrian army in cooperation with Russia declared a three-day truce in Aleppo city, to give a chance for the civilians and the rebels to evacuate the rebel-held part in eastern Aleppo.
However, the truce, which started on Thursday, saw almost no evacuation.
The Syrian government accused the rebels in eastern Aleppo of preventing the civilians and the rebels who want to surrender or leave.
The battles map in Aleppo is so complicated, as the province is an example of the Syrian war, where there are so many rebel groups backed by different regional and international players.
UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura recently proposed an evacuation of the ultra-radical groups of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, previously known by al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, in order for the Russian and the Syrian forces to ease their attacks on eastern Aleppo.
However, as the truce is in its third day, the process has largely failed, leaving the city with one option, another broad offensive by the Syrian army and Russia to forcefully remove the rebels from Aleppo city.
The northern countryside, however, remains another battle ground between the Kurdish-led SDF and the Turkey-backed FSA.
It's worth mentioning that the United States backs both the FSA and the SDF, an example of the chaos resulted from the U.S. double standards in dealing with the Syrian crisis.
Observers believe that Aleppo is going to be the decisive battle ground among the fighting groups, and the winner will be the one dictating its conditions to resolve the crisis, as the province contain all the groups that are supported by regional and international powers, with the civilians paying the price for this proxy war.(Xinhua)


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