Middle East News

Syria: Manbij Military Council says Euphrates Shield forces targeting Boughaz village

Manbij Military Council said in a statement that Boughaz village, around 25km west of Manbij, has been targeted with heavy weapons by Syrian rebel forces.

Manbij Military Council said in a statement that Boughaz village, around 25km west of Manbij, has been targeted with heavy weapons by Syrian rebel forces.

One Turkish armoured vehicle was destroyed and up to 16 fighters were killed in clashes in the area, according to reports by pro-Kurd news outlets – Turkey’s ANF and Syria-based ANHA.

Update March 8

Manbij Military Council posted a video to YouTube showing what it says is an armoured vehicle being hit with a TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missile.

MMC also posted a picture on its website claiming to be a photograph of the missile system being prepared.

It is unclear if this is a second armoured vehicle, or video of the armoured vehicle it claimed was destroyed on March 7. ANF reported that the video is of the destruction of second armoured vehicle.

MMC claims Boughaz was attacked overnight on March 6 and attacks continued on March 7.

ANF said that Boxaz – the Kurdish name for the village – was one of two under attack on March 5. ANF said that some people were refusing to leave Boughaz, which it said was under the control of Al Bab Military Council.

Reports of Free Syrian Army attacks on Boughaz stretch back to November 2016, shortly after Euphrates Shield forces took nearby areas from Islamic State.

Boughaz is around 1.5km (1 mile) east of Olashli. The Free Syrian Army’s Sultan Murad Division, a mainly Turkmen group heavily backed by Turkey, said on March 6 that it had taken control of Olashli, a claim disputed by pro-Kurd ANHA news agency, which said that MMC fighters had repelled the attack, and that attacks were ongoing on Olashli, Boughaz and Yalanli.

FSA group Jaysh al-Nukhba (“Elite Army”, until January 2017 known as Jaysh al-Tahrir) also released a statement saying Olashli had fallen and that it had killed four members of the Kurdish YPG, the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Both Jaysh al-Nukhba and the Sultan Murad Division received TOW Anti-tank Tank Guided Missiles from the United States in the past, after vetting by the CIA.

MMC/Russia/Syria defence deal

On March 6, Manbij Military Council spokesperson Shervan Derwish, said Syrian government forces had taken over defensive positions in around five villages to the west of Manbij from MMC, Reuters reported.

It is unclear which villages Derwish was referring to, but the council said on March 5 that the area to be defended by government forces was the frontline around Arima.

The deal, brokered by Russia, was announced on March 2.

US forces nearby?

Boughaz is around 8km (5 miles) as the crow flies from Yalanli, the village where a convoy of US military vehicles was photographed on March 5.

The US said the deployment was part of what it termed a ‘reassurance and deterrence’ mission.

Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis said on March 6: “We want to have a visible show that we are there in order to deter all parties from fighting anybody other than ISIS and to reassure that ISIS has been driven from Manbij.”

“Manbij is liberated, and there’s no need for further fighting there,” he added, a reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated statements that Turkey would take the area by force.

The deployment aims to keep the peace between the YPG units within the SDF, and FSA and Turkish military units.

Davis did not specify the number of troops involved, saying only that it’s fewer than dozens and that they include conventional forces working in support of special operations units that have been in the area for months.

Grasswire geo-located images of the US convoy on its way to Manbij on March 5, the day before the Pentagon admitted they were there.

Geo-locating US forces near Manbij, northern Syria

Turkey questions continuing Operation Euphrates Shield

On March 6, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım suggested that Operation Euphrates Shield could cease due to Russian and US support for the SDF.

“Without coordination with the US and Russia in Manbij, there is no point in continuing operations,” he said, adding that Russian and US flags were flying over Manbij, ARA News reported.

Yıldırım also suggested the establishment of a Turkey/Russia/US joint mechanism aimed at removing any remaining Kurdish YPG presence from the area. Turkey sees the YPG and the PYD political party as terrorist organisations, extensions of the Turkish PKK in Syria.

The US and Russia do not consider the YPG or PYD to be terrorists. Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition against Islamic State, said on March 1 that he believed the YPG posed no threat to Turkey. “I have seen absolutely zero evidence that they have been a threat to or supported any attacks on Turkey from northern Syria over the last two years,” he said.


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