The U.S.-led coalition has air-dropped U.S. and allied Syrian forces near Tabqa in Raqqa province, expanding a campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces militias against Islamic State, the SDF said on Wednesday. The operation aims both to capture the al-Tabqa area, across the Euphrates from the SDF’s other main holdings, and to curb Syrian government advances in that direction, the SDF’s Raqqa campaign said in a statement on social media. The landing forces had seized four small villages in the area west of al-Tabqa and cut a main highway that links the provinces of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor and Aleppo, the SDF, a U.S.-backed alliance of militias added.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on March 17 condemned the bombing of a mosque in northern Syria as a “war crime”. An airstrike on a mosque in the village of Al-Jina, located west of Aleppo city, killed 58 people at night of March 16. “This is a crime against humanity, this is a war crime”, Kurtulmuş told reporters in the northwestern province of Çanakkale. “Bombing civilians, people in the mosque, and a house of worship is unacceptable”.
An advance by the Assad regime forces against Daesh in northern Syria has opened a new link between regime-held areas in western Syria and the country’s northeast held by YPG-dominated and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), redrawing the map of the conflict near the Turkish border. The advance, if sustained, could open a trade lifeline between the northeast, which holds 70 percent of Syria’s oil and also includes rich farmland, and the west, where Syria’s manufacturing and most of its population are based. The regime advance has begun just south of the town of al-Bab and has pushed forward into the territory expanding northwards, where Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are currently waging Operation Euphrates Shield, which aims to carve out a buffer zone to keep Daesh and PKK-affiliated groups away from the Turkish border. Regime government forces have now come to the edge of a swathe of territory controlled by the SDF, which has mostly avoided conflict with Damascus but is viewed by Turkey as an extension of the PKK terrorist group that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish territory. The YPG, which is the armed wing of PKK’s Syrian offshoot PYD, is the dominating force within the SDF. The YPG’s critics have accused it of cooperating with Damascus in the Syrian civil war. The spokesman for the SDF militia alliance said the regime army’s advance would bring benefits to civilians in the area. “On the trade front and on the civilian front it is seen as an excellent thing, because now there is a link between the entire northern rural area”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the regime advance in the area is part of a bid to block Turkish-backed forces from expanding their zones of control in Aleppo province.
Sergey Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, said that Russian and Syrian aircraft stopped airstrikes in Aleppo area from 10 a.m. on Tuesday to introduce a humanitarian pause on 20th of October. According to Shoigu, this will allow guaranteeing security of exit via six corridors for civilians and preparing for evacuation of those ill and wounded from the eastern part of Aleppo. Two other corridors will open for militants to leave the city. He alsoadded that military experts from a number of countries will start work in Geneva on separating opposition from terrorists in Syria’s Aleppo, tomorrow.