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Martin Armstrong

FSA poised for showdown with Kurdish forces in Aleppo

Turkey backed FSA units are currently advancing in Aleppo province [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 October, 2016

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Syrian rebels outside Tel Rifaat, have issued an ultimatum to Kurdish groups in the Aleppo town, warning civilians to leave the area before it begins targeting YPG positions.

Free Syrian Army units appear poised to attack Kurdish and Arab fighters positioned in Tel Rifaat, around 40km north of Aleppo.

In a video published on YouTube on Tuesday a group of soldiers in military fatigues - believed to be a FSA unit positioned outside Tel Rifaat - issued an ultimatum to civilians in the town.

The Syrian rebels warned residents to leave the area within 48 hours before it is attacked. 

Inparticular the video states that the Kurdish People's Protection Units - known as the YPG - but referred to in the video as the Turkish-Kurdish outfit "the PKK" - will be targeted.

Also warned off are the Syrian Democractic Forces (referred to as "Jaish al-Thuwar" or Army of Revolutionaries, a reference to a sub-division within the SDF).

In the last few days a number of videos have appeared online showing soldiers allegedly belonging to the FSA announcing that they are advancing towards the town. 

Kurdish forces took control of Tel Rifaat in February having pushed back rebel groups including the al-Qaeda linked Fatah al-Sham; and Islamic State group forces in the area.

But since Turkey announced the launch of operation "Euphrates Shield" in August Turkey-backed rebels have battled both Islamic State group militants and clashed with Kurdish forces with Ankara wary of growing Kurdish autonomy in Syria. 


In Aleppo province, the YPG and the SDF are viewed by opposition activists as complicit in the current regime-imposed siege on rebel-held East Aleppo.

The relationship between the YPG and the Syrian regime has been described as a "tacit alliance" drawing the ire of rebel groups.

Analysts believe that having wrestled control of the town of Dabiq, located 20 km east of Tel Rifaat, FSA units might seek to open up a new channel into rebel-held east Aleppo, thus breaking a siege on the district.

Syrian and Russian air raids on the city have lead to more than 400 reported deaths in east Aleppo in the last month and caused global outcry.

An eight hour ceasefire proposal for Aleppo presented by Russia and set to take place on Thursday has been widely criticized by international actors. Rebel groups have also expressed objections, dismissing the supposed deal as a call for their "surrender". To date ongoing diplomatic negotiations headed by the United States and Russia have failed to arrive at a breakthrough towards a political settlement that could end ongoing bloodshed in Aleppo.

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