Turkish army_reutersPhoto: Reuters

Ceasefire breached: fighting in Syria erupts

Clashes erupted in several villages in Syria’s Turkish-envisioned northeastern “safe zone.” Five Turkish soldiers and numerous militants of the Ankara-backed Syrian paramilitary forces were reportedly wounded in heavy exchanges of fire with the Syrian army, and separately elsewhere with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

In spite of the two separate written agreements Turkey reached with United States and Russia, Ankara miscalculated two factors that are crucial for the success of its sought after “safe zone”: The refusal of the Damascus government headed by President Bashar al-Assad to accept Turkey’s military presence on Syrian lands, and subsequently, the hatred of the Turkish-backed paramilitary forces toward the Assad regime.

When Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Syrian Free Army where asked for their opinion on Ankara’s agreements with Moscow and Washington, they expressed a unified response. Turkish-backed Syrian (SNA) Paramilitary Mohammed Kabso said “To us, this recent agreement doesn’t concern us, our greatest enemy is still the regime. We will continue and these safe zones will not have regime forces. We will advance until we beat the (regime).” His fellow SNA Paramilitary Abu Suleiman offered his view saying “With regards to the safe zone, we want one that is free of the regime. When we first took part in this revolution, we protested the regime and injustice. The regime is the one who killed us and killed our families. We are definitely against the regime, completely, absolutely.”

It is important to mention that the deal struck between Russia and Turkey, similar to the agreement with the United States, has an agreed-upon expiration date. Per the agreement, Moscow pledged to force the withdrawal of all Kurdish militants from Ankara’s self-proclaimed safe zone by the 29th of October at 6PM, Jerusalem time. In the event of Russia’s failure Turkish President Erdogan vowed to follow-through on his previous plans to enact a wide-scale offensive. According to the Erdogan “If the terror group will be removed from the area with all their elements at the end of the determined time, this agreement (with Russia) will be implemented successfully. If the terror group keeps disturbing our country from these areas, we will continue to implement our plans for an offensive.”