Units of Syrian government forces have entered the strategic northern city of Raqqah and begun setting up some observation posts there, amid a ground offensive by the Turkish military and allied militants against Kurdish forces in the war-ravaged Arab country.
Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network reported on Wednesday that Syrian army forces have been deployed in villages on the border with Turkish-backed Takfiri militants.
An unnamed field source also told Russia’s Sputnik news agency that Syrian government forces entered the city of Raqqah, the former de facto capital of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria, for the first time in five years and installed some checkpoints there.
The development came after militants from the Kurdish-dominated and so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) cut a deal with the Damascus government for army troops to deploy at the border and confront a Turkish military campaign against the Kurds.
On Monday, Syrian government forces arrived in the towns of Tabqa, on the outskirts of Raqqah, and Ayn Isa, which served as the headquarters of the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northeast Syria and is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border.
The shift by Kurdish forces under Turkish fire came after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision in recent days to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria, leaving Kurdish forces that had allied with the US-led military coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terror group vulnerable to Turkish offensive.
Later in the day, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that government forces had entered a number of villages on the outskirts of Tell Tamr town in the northeastern province of al-Hasakah.
Syria troops fight Turkish forces alongside Kurds: SOHR
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Syrian army forces have deployed alongside Kurdish forces on the front line in northern Syria.
The Britain-based monitor reported on Wednesday that government troops and Kurdish militants were “fighting together” against Turkish-sponsored militants northeast of Ayn Issa.
The Observatory added that “violent clashes” are underway near the M4 highway, which runs from the western coastal city of Latakia to Saraqib city in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
“We should end the fighting immediately”
Separately, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said on Wednesday that he had repeated the appeal for fighting to end “immediately” in northeastern Syria.
“We obviously concentrated on the situation in the northeast and I repeated the Secretary General’s (António Guterres’) strong appeal that we should end the fighting immediately, that there needs to be a cessation of hostilities, and that we are extremely alarmed by the humanitarian consequences of the crisis and that, we today, have seen already too many people killed and of course more than 160,000 people being displaced,” Pedersen told reporters following talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus.
He added, “There is only a political solution also to the crisis in the northeast and we are appealing to all parties to participate in this. We also discussed the launching of the constitutional committee and we had a rather detailed discussion on how we are going to move forward with the launch of the committee by the end of this month.”
“I will continue to have discussions with the co-chairs of the government list and the co-chair of the opposition. I must say that so far, the discussions I had here in Damascus and with the opposition in Riyadh have been very good when it comes to launching the constitutional committee. Of course, this hopefully can then be a door opener, as I have said many times, to a broader political process,” the senior UN official pointed out.
On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to push Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.
Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the SDF.