MESOP – TODAYS ROJAVA REPORT : Turkish-Supported Rebels Advance v. ISIS & Kurdish-Led SDF

29 Aug 2016 – The Kurdish YPG militia has accused Turkey of seeking to seize Syrian territory with its support of a rebel offensive. The chief spokesman for the YPG militia, Redur Xelil, denied that any YPG fighters were attacking the rebels:There are no YPG military reinforcements being sent towards Manbij [the city captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces last month]. Turkey’s claims that it is fighting the YPG west of the Euphrates have no basis in truth and are merely flimsy pretexts to widen its occupation of Syrian land.ORIGINAL ENTRY: Turkish-supported rebels advanced in northern Syria on Sunday, taking a series of villages from both the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Islamic State.

On the fifth day of the offensive, the rebels moved through SDF territory to reach the Sajur River, 15 km south of the border city of Jarablus, the initial objective which was quickly captured from the Islamic State last Wednesday.

The river is about one-third of the way to the SDF-held city of Manbij. The rebels reportedly took one village on the Manbij side, as one commander said that the offensive would press ahead to the city, which the SDF took from ISIS last month.

Rebels also took more villages from the Islamic State between Jarablus and al-Rai to the west.Meanwhile, there were conflicting claims over a deadly incident near Jarablus, with 19 SDF fighters and 28 civilians killed and another 59 people wounded in a Turkish airstrike on a house.

Kurdish outlets claimed a “massacre”, while pro-rebel outlets claimed that the house was being used as a firing position with civilians used as shields for the troops. The Turkish daily Daily Sabah, close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said 25 “terrorists” were killed, with five buildings destroyed, and did not report any civilian casualties.

Turkey said it carried out 57 strikes on 16 targets in the past 24 hours. Officials did not specify how many were on the SDF and how many on the Islamic State.

The immediate effect of the offensive — begun on Wednesday as rebels crossed into Syria, accompanied by Turkish armor and special forces — was to continue the erosion of ISIS in the north of the country. The Islamic State had been pushed out of many of its positions in central and northern Syria this year, and is now reliant on its central area in the city of Raqqa.

However, the conflict soon shifted to one between rebels and the SDF, which has been backed by the US since its creation last autumn to fight the Islamic State.

Rebels have fought with the Kurdish YPG militia, which leads the SDF and also seized opposition territory in northwest Syria early this year. Turkey is opposed to the YPG and its political umbrella, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), because it believes the group is part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

After months of discussion with the US, Ankara relented to an SDF advance west of the Euphrates River, culminating in the offensive against Manbij from late May.

However, the quick success of the Turkey intervention and rebel offensive has revived the prospect of a “safe haven” — proposed by Ankara in 2014 — along the border from the northwest corner of Syria to Jarablus, extending about 40 km (25 miles) into Syrian territory.