Turkish Forces, FSA Take Control over Tal Rifaat #OperationOliveBranch
Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) took control of Tal Rifaat and Menagh military airport in the northern countryside of Aleppo as part of Operation Olive Branch, which was aimed at ending the presence of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin region and its villages.
Turkish television channels showed footage of the Turkish army and FSA factions entering Tal Rifaat, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last Saturday saying that it would be done “within a short period.”
Dogan news agency reported that Olive Branch forces were able to take control over the entire city of Tal Rifaat and Menagh military airport.
Earlier on Tuesday, local sources from Tal Rifaat said that Turkish army fighter jets launched air raids on targets of the Kurdish “units” in the city in preparation for the expected military operation.
Commander at the 9th Division of FSA, Lt. Anas Hajji said that the battle in Tal Rifaat is a continuation of Operation Olive Branch, pointing out that Turkish warplanes raided villages of Umm Hush and Sheikh Issa.
In the same context, Turkish media and local sources revealed a meeting held on Monday between Turkish and Russian military officials in Aleppo’s northern countryside to discuss military action towards the city of Tal Rifaat.
The sources indicated the meeting included military officials from both sides in the town of Kafrnaya, north of Aleppo.
Frequent meetings regarding Tal Rifaat and nearby Arab villages took place over the past few days and resulted in the agreement to enter Tal Rifaat militarily by Turkey, according to the sources.
About 500 residents of Tal Rifaat and FSA members demonstrated on Sunday demanding the liberation of the city from the YPG units. Turkish media said the protesters in Azaz and village of Sjo in the countryside of Aleppo chanted slogans against the Kurdish units, and thanked Turkey for the “Olive Branch” in Afrin, while carrying flags of Turkey and FSA.
Speaking at the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s sixth ordinary provincial congress President Erdogan said: “God willing, we will achieve this operation’s goal by taking control of Tal Rifaat within a short period.”
At the beginning of 2016, YPG units took control of areas southeast Afrin, and displaced about 250,000 residents of Tal Refaat fled to opposition controlled areas in Azaz.
Office of the governor of Turkish state Hatay said on Tuesday that the Turkish army killed 11 Kurdish militants in the southern state on the border with Syria, while the army said two of its soldiers were killed in an explosion in Afrin area.
A statement issued by the office indicated the Turkish security forces killed the gunmen after detecting their locations in Arsuz in Hatay near the Mediterranean Sea.
Turkish army and its allies from the Free Syrian Army began Olive Branch Operation on January 20 against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in the Syrian region of Afrin, which lies on the other side of the border with Hatay. The entire area was liberated on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Turkish armed forces said that two Turkish soldiers were killed in an improvised explosive device during inspections in Afrin.