Tal Rifaat, Menagh Air Base vital to Turkey's counterterrorism push

Published 29.03.2018 00:00
Updated 29.03.2018 02:08

The Syrian city of Tal Rifaat, northeast of Afrin, and the Menagh military airbase, which has been used by the People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists to transport arms, are both strategically vital to Turkey's efforts to rid the region of terrorists.

Home to more than 20,000 people, mostly Arabs, according to the 2004 census, Tal Rifaat had around 40,000 residents, including the Syrians who fled their hometown, and had become a war zone long before Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria. Tal Rifaat is 35 kilometers from the Aleppo city center and is currently controlled by the YPG. It is seen as a natural extension of Turkey's Afrin operation, as the city has been held by the YPG since the civil war broke out in the country.

According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, nearly 75,000 people fled from Afrin to Tal Rifaat to escape Operation Olive Branch. After the Syrian war erupted in 2011, regime forces withdrew from Tal Rifaat in 2012, leaving it to groups such as al-Shamiyya Front, Sokour al-Jabal and Fastaqim, which were fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The city was under Daesh control between November 2013 and January 2014, and then was retaken by FSA factions.

Tal Rifaat came under heavy aerial bombing during the regime and Russian forces' siege of Aleppo. The YPG expelled Daesh and took the town over in February 2016. When the Democratic Union Party (PYD) set up local councils affiliated to its Afrin canton to manage the city, some Tal Rifaat residents fled to refugee camps in the town of Azaz in northern Aleppo.

Menagh Air Base, Tal Rifaat critical

Taking control of Menagh Air Base, Tal Rifaat and the towns of Deir Jamal and Sheikh Isa is very important for clearing the area of the threat from terrorism and providing safety as part of Operation Olive Branch.

Menagh Air Base is important as it has been used by the YPG to transport ammunition and weapons. Tal Rifaat, Deir Jamal, and Sheikh Isa are the last areas in northwestern Syria except for Manbij that the YPG still controls.

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