BEIRUT – Syrian rebel factions and allied Turkish military forces on Monday gained control of four villages in the north of the Kurdish-held Afrin enclave in northwest Syria, according to a rebel commander.
Col. Ahmad Othman of the Sultan Murad Division told EFE that Syrian rebels and Turkish army units had gained control of four villages located close to the Turkish border as part of the ongoing military invasion of Afrin to establish a 30-kilometer-deep (19-mile-deep) buffer zone inside Syria and expel the United States-supported Kurdish YPG militia that holds the enclave.
Since Saturday, Afrin has been the target of a combined offensive by both the Turkish armed forces and Turkey-backed factions of the rebel Free Syrian Army militia.
Othman, whose brigade is mainly composed of Turkomen fighters, a minority in Syria who speak Turkish, stated that some 5,000 combatants from Syrian rebel factions were participating in the offensive.
Although the YPG played a pivotal role in the campaign against the Islamic State terror organization in Syria, the group is viewed by Ankara as indistinguishable from the PKK Kurdish separatists who have fought a low-scale guerrilla war in eastern Turkey for decades.