Photos and videos have appeared online showing Syrian Army forces moving into the town of Kobani, aka Ayn al-Arab, a key strategic settlement near the Syrian-Turkish border, with the Syrian Arab News Agency confirming that the deployment has taken place.
Video footage and photos showed army troops entering the city on trucks, buses and military vehicles, hoisting Syrian flags on administrative buildings, and receiving an enthusiastic greeting from local residents.
Just days earlier, it was reported that Turkish forces and their allies were preparing to seize the town from the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia.
A convoy of Syrian Army accompanied by Russian Military Police arrived in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab). pic.twitter.com/0syGpepSJ7— Military Advisor (@miladvisor) 16 октября 2019 г.
The US-led coalition withdrew from Kobani last week, on the eve of the Turkish operation in the area. On Wednesday, a coalition warplane bombed an arms depot at the Lafarge Cement Factory south of the town. Kobani has served as the centre of one of the administrative units of the ‘Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, a de facto autonomous region of Syria established in 2014. Syrian army forces originally left the territory in 2012 as the foreign-backed civil conflict in the country intensified. Between late 2014 and early 2015, Kobani was besieged by Daesh (ISIS)* terrorists, with the terrorists capturing many of the surrounding villages and engaging in ethnic cleansing and other crimes. With support from the US-led coalition, Kurdish fighters took back control over the region between 2015 and 2017.
Last week, after the start of the Turkish operation in northern Syria, Kurdish authorities reached an agreement with Damascus allowing the Syrian government to deploy troops along the entire border with Turkey to try to halt the assault. Later, Russian peacekeeping forces were spotted in the city of Manbij, about 45 km southwest of Kobani, with their mission said to consist of separating Syrian and Kurdish forces in the area.
Russian military police on Tigr armored vehicles have for the first time organized a patrol in the #Syria🇸🇾n city of #Manbij in eastern Aleppo, military police officer of the Russian Armed Forces Safar Safarov told reporters on Wednesday— Russia in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) 16 октября 2019 г.
▶️ https://t.co/pPjpuiXmF3 @MoD_Russia🇷🇺 pic.twitter.com/UCU28JTYCU
Amid warming relations between the Syrian government and the Kurds in the country’s north, observers began speculating about the fate of their de facto autonomous status. On Thursday, Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior advisor to Syrian President Bashar Assad, said Damascus could not allow for the creation of a formal autonomy for the Kurds because of Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious makeup.
Along with Syrian Arabs and Kurds, Syria is home to Turkmen, Druze, Ismailis, Palestinians, Circassians, Greeks, Ossetians, Assyrians, Armenians, Jews, Romanis and Yazidis.
Sporadic clashes between Turkish and Kurdish Syrian forces continued on Friday, after the United States and Turkey reached an agreement on a 120-hour ceasefire in northeast Syria to allow YPG forces to withdraw. Turkey says its operation aims at establishing a security zone in northern Syria, and to prevent the operations of YPG fighters it says are allied the Turkish Kurdish PKK militia, whom Ankara classifies as terrorists. Damascus has slammed Turkey’s operations, accusing Ankara of “aggressive intentions” and saying it won’t tolerate the violation of Syria’s territorial integrity.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.