Dozens killed as Turkey-backed groups clash over control of ‘safe zones’ in Syria – report

Turkey-backed FSA members in Syria as part of the Euphrates Shield Operation.

More than a hundred militants have been killed in internal fighting between groups of the Turkey-backed Operation Euphrates Shield in the four “safe zones” declared at the recent Astana talks, according to a report by Aleppo-based journalist Erdogan Altan.

According to the report based on a Jabhat al-Shamiya member’s testimony, clashes over the control of the Shahba region (Jarablus, Rai, Azaz and al-Bab) between Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jabhat al-Shamiya, Ahrar al-Sharqiya and the Sultan Murad Brigades have resulted in the death of more than 100 fighters.

Clashes in Jarablus

Civilians living in Jarablus also confirmed the reports saying clashes in the south of the city had led to the death of 51 Jabhat al-Shamiya and 29 Sultan Murad Brigade militants.

Jabhat al-Shamiya representatives had stormed out of the meeting at Astana last week while the Sultan Murad Brigade, a group favoured by Ankara, had stayed till the end of talks, leading to accusations that the latter wanted to control the so-called “de-escalation zones.”

Clashes were also reported on Monday on the outskirts of Jarablus between Ahrar al-Sham and Sultan Murad Brigade militants, resulting in the death of 7 Ahrar al-Sham and 21 Sultan Murad Brigade members, residents said.

State of emergency in Jarablus

Another interesting allegation in Altan’s report is that the Turkish army has declared state of emergency in Jarablus. Residents who spoke to Altan on condition of anonymity said members of the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish intelligence had arrived in the city from border town Karkamis to hold meetings after which state of emergency had been declared.

Fighting also in al-Bab

There has also been fighting in the surrounding areas of al-Bab between some members of Ahrar al-Sharqiya and Faylaq al-Sham after the latter captured members of the former. According to the report, Ahrar al-Sham destroyed an arms depot belonging to Faylaq al-Sham, while dozens were killed and injured in ensuing clashes near a check-point in the southwest of the al-Bab.