Uprootedpalestinians’s Blog writes:
The Turks supported most armed groups in northern Syria, but gave Turkmen groups special treatment. According to an opposition source on the ground, “the weapons supplied to these groups were from the beginning advanced weapons that are superior to other groups’ arms.” These groups are estimated to have 4,000 fighters in Aleppo and the countryside at present, though previously, they had more than 7,000 fighters.
The most prominent of these groups are the Liwaa Ahfad al-Fatihin, Liwaa al-Salajiqa, Liwaa al-Sultan Murad, and Liwaa al-Sultan Abdul-Hamid. They are deployed in the districts of Sheikh Fares, Bustan al-Basha, al-Halak, Baaydeen, al-Sakhour, and al-Haidarieh.
Initially, the group was aligned with Turkey. Its leader Sheikh Tawfiq Shihab al-Din then shifted his allegiance to Qatar (and the United States behind it) in April, after a visit to Doha. Upon his return, he split from the Army of Mujahedeen and changed his group’s name from Nur al-Din Zinki Brigades to Nur al-Din Zinki Movement, and forged an alliance with Hazm.
Opposition sources on the ground told Al-Akhbar that the leaders of these three groups held meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Turkey, before the coalition began air strikes against ISIS. One of the sources said, “Hazm and Zinki in particular receive direct US guidance, even in the simplest matters, such as telling their fighters not to grow beards.”
- Turkey warns of threat to Aleppo from Assad, fears new refugee influx (crashonline.com)
Ankara has been pushing for the U.S.-led coalition to broaden its campaign to tackle Assad as well as Islamic State, arguing there can be no peace in Syria if he remains in power.
“We are watching the developments in Aleppo with concern. Though the city is not on the verge of falling, it is under extreme pressure,” Davutoglu told reporters late on Tuesday after meeting Turkey’s top generals.
Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, has been split roughly in half between opposition groups in the east and government troops in the west. Assad’s forces have slowly encircled rebel positions this year trying to cut supply routes.
Davutoglu said Assad’s forces were committing “large massacres” by barrel-bombing areas northeast and west of Aleppo under the control of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella term for the dozens of armed groups fighting Assad.
“If Aleppo were to fall, we in Turkey would really be confronted with a large, very serious, worrisome refugee crisis. This is why we want a safe zone,” he said.
- Turkey warns of threat to Aleppo from Assad, fears new refugee influx (dailymail.co.uk)
Turkey already hosts more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria’s civil war and has been pushing the United States and its allies to create a safe haven for refugees on Syrian territory. Any such move on the southern fringe of its border would require a no-fly zone policed by foreign jets.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the U.S.-led coalition’s focus in recent weeks on the predominantly Kurdish border town of Kobani, which has been besieged by Islamic State for more than a month, and warned its attention needed to be turned to other parts of the conflict.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said this week that Aleppo, the “bastion” of the opposition, was almost encircled by Assad’s forces and that abandoning it would end hopes of a political solution in Syria’s war.
- Turkey warns of threat to Aleppo from Assad, fears new refugee influx (theglobeandmail.com)
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused Syrian forces of committing massacres in and around Aleppo and said Turkey would face a major new refugee crisis if Syria’s second city were to fall into his hands.
As U.S. warplanes bomb Islamic State forces in parts of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s military has intensified its campaign against some rebel groups in the west and north that Washington sees as allies, including in and around Aleppo.
- Local ceasefires best way to ease Syrians’ suffering: researchers (dailystar.com.lb)
Local ceasefires in Syria may be the best way to ease the suffering of civilians in the absence of a political solution to the three-and-a-half year conflict, researchers from the London School of Economics said Monday.
In a report that looked at more than 35 local negotiations across Syria since the start of the crisis, they said the international community should support such solutions, even if they have sometimes been problematic.
While two rounds of peace talks between the government and the political opposition this year failed to halt the war, local ceasefires have brought some relief.
- ‘ISIS Sees Turkey as Its Ally’: Former Islamic State Member Reveals Turkish Army Cooperation (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
A reluctant former communications technician working for Islamic State, going by the pseudonym ‘Sherko Omer’, who managed to escape the group, told Newsweek that he travelled in a convoy of trucks as part of an ISIS unit from their stronghold in Raqqa, across Turkish border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February, in order to bypass their defences.
- Assad says local ceasefire initiative “worth studying” (worldbulletin.net)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday that a proposal by an international peace mediator to implement local ceasefires starting in the northern city of Aleppo was “worth studying”, state media said.
United Nations Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura has cited the northern city of Aleppo as an obvious candidate for “incremental freeze zones” to stop localised fighting and allow better access to aid.
- ‘Common enemy’: Former ISIS member calls Turkey an ‘ally’ in fight against Kurds (rt.com)
Turkey’s role in the fight against ISIS in Syria may be even more complicated than expected: a former Islamic State member reportedly claimed the country routinely communicates with the group, letting it cross the border to fight Kurdish troops.
In a report by Newsweek, the former Islamic State communications technician – dubbed “Sherko Omer” in order to protect his identity – said the extremist group considers Turkey an ally as it continues to battle Kurds in Syrian towns like Kobani.
“ISIS and Turkey cooperate together on the ground on the basis that they have a common enemy to destroy, the Kurds,” he told the magazine.
- Syrian army planes bomb northern town killing 21 – monitor (cyprus-mail.com)
Syrian military helicopters dropped barrel bombs and warplanes launched air strikes on the town which lies northeast of the city of Aleppo, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
- Will Aleppo finally fall? (bbc.co.uk)
“Last year, it wasn’t clear the regime would fight with all the resources and resolve necessary to keep [Aleppo],” one commentator in the city told me. “But they have.”
Rebel ranks are weakened by infighting and distracted by other fronts against the Islamic State (IS) group that now controls large swathes of northern Syria, including a strategic approach to Aleppo.
- Has The Islamic State Peaked? (warnewsupdates.blogspot.com)
Is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria finally beginning to feel the pressure? The first signs are emerging that a combination of coalition airstrikes and more assertive Iraqi and Kurdish forces are forcing ISIS to change its behavior and inflicting serious losses of both territory and fighters.
Analysts tell CNN it is too early to say ISIS has “peaked.” It controls vast areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as much of northeastern Syria, and exercises draconian authority in areas as far apart as Anbar in western Iraq and Aleppo province in northern Syria. ISIS also continues to pick up endorsements and pledges of allegiance from other jihadist groups, most notably in Libya and Egypt.