Pro-Assad Groups Withdraw from Syria’s Afrin after Warning Shots from Turkish Army

Hours after the announcement of Syrian pro-government forces have entered Afrin to confront what state media called “aggression by the Turkish regime”, Anadolu agency said that Pro-regime groups, who tried to enter Syria’s Afrin to support YPG/PKK-Daesh against Turkey’s ongoing operation in the region, have withdrawn Tuesday before reaching the city following warning shots, according to reliable sources on the ground.

The pro-regime groups departed in the Nubl-al-Zahraa region, in southern Afrin, at around 5.00 p.m. (1400GMT) with the aim of supporting YPG/PKK-Daesh terror groups against Operation Olive Branch, said the source on condition of anonymity due to speaking to the media.

The militias tried to advance into the city with a convoy of 20 vehicles including armoured vehicles with DShK heavy machine guns

The withdrawal of the pro-Bashar al-Assad terror groups came when they were about 10 km (about 6 miles) away from Afrin, in northwestern Syria.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and that “utmost care” was being taken to not harm civilians.


Turkish President Erdogan says issue of pro-Assad terror groups in Afrin is closed for now

Does this risk a wider escalation?

For Turks, this was not surprising, but it is alarming.

Turkey had said that if Syrian forces came into Afrin to support the Kurdish YPG forces, there would be serious consequences.

The confrontation risks an escalation in Turkey’s one-month-old offensive that is aimed at driving the YPG out of Afrin.

Ankara says it is determined to carry on its operation whatever happens. But many argue Turkey would need Russia’s backing in order to avoid confronting Syrian troops along with the YPG.

Why is Turkey attacking Afrin?

Turkish leaders say they want to clear the Kurdish enclave of members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which they consider a terrorist group.

They say it is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades.

The Turkish air and ground assault on Afrin, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch”, began on 20 January.

Since then, Turkish troops and Syrian rebels have taken about 45 villages, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.