Turkey and Russia have reinforced their positions in the north of Syria ahead of a possible Turkish military offensive against Kurdish groups.
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR) reported on 3 July that a large Turkish military convoy consisting of main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and support vehicles had arrived on the frontlines in Manbij in eastern Aleppo countryside and Ain Eissa in northern Al-Raqqa countryside.
In a counter move to the Turkish build-up, the SOHR also reported that Russian forces – who are backing the Assad regime – have brought military reinforcements to a military base known as Al-Sae’diyah in Manbij countryside, northeast of Aleppo.
In May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would target Kurdish armed groups in two northern Syrian cities in an upcoming military operation.
“We are taking another step in establishing a 30km security zone along our southern border. We will clean up Tal Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists”, he told a meeting of his ruling party in parliament.
Erdogan said Turkish forces would then proceed, “step by step, into other regions”.
Turkey also aims to completely block Turkish-Iraqi border access to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by capturing the remaining land corridor, effectively ending nearly 40 years of PKK infiltrations.
Turkey has launched three military operations into northern Syria since 2016, seizing areas along the border in what it says is a bid to secure its frontier from threats from ISIL (ISIS) and the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG).
The YPG-linked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warned that a military operation by Ankara would undermine efforts to combat fighters from the ISIS (ISIL) armed group in northeastern Syria.
“The SDF has been expecting a possible battle for a while now,” said Farhad Shami, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led force.
“In the event of an attack, we will pause our war against the Islamic State group and start military measures against the Turkish invasion,” he told the AFP news agency.
The United States-backed SDF has said that they will turn to the Syrian government for support if Turkey decides to launch a new military operation against them in northern Syria.
Iran’s foreign minister warned Saturday on a visit to Damascus that Turkish military action in Syria would destabilise the region.