MESOP Syria Daily: Fighting Escalates Between Kurdish Militia and Rebels in Aleppo

April 06 – by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Fighting escalated between the Kurdish militia YPG and rebels on Tuesday in and near Aleppo city in northwest Syria. Yesterday’s clashes started when the YPG tried to seize the al-Castello road, a main route into opposition-held areas of Aleppo. Skirmishes were also renewed in the Sheikh Maqsoud district of the city.Kurdish activists claimed that 11 civilians were killed and others wounded by rebel shelling in Sheikh Maqsoud amid the ground battles.By late afternoon, rebels said they had not only countered the al-Castello operation but taken YPG checkpoints in western Sheikh Maqsoud.Last month, the YPG seized territory in Aleppo Province from rebels, including towns such as Tal Rifaat and Deir Jamal. They advanced as far as the key border town of Azaz before they were checked by Turkish shelling as well as rebel resistance.The offensive was then suspended by the February 27 cessation of hostilities arranged by international powers, but skirmishes in Sheikh Maqsoud have continued.

Tensions are also rising over a race by each side to take territory from the retreating Islamic State along the Turkish border. Rebels are moving on the town of Jarablus from the west, while the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are advancing from the east.Both Ankara and rebels are concerned that Kurdish forces will try to link the Afrin canton in Aleppo Province with the Kobane and Cezire cantons in northeast Syria.Turkey has warned the SDF and its US backers from any attempt to take Jarablus. Meanwhile, Washington is seeking Ankara’s assent to an SDF operation against ISIS in the town of Manbij to the south.Turkish officials had held out against any advance west of the Euphrates River, but the SDF — backed by US weapons, ammunition, and special forces — have gradually moved towards Manbij since crossing the river in December.