The logo of the newly formed ‘Rebel Forces.’
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A new armed force has been formed to fight Turkey and its allies in northern Syria.
The new force, called Rebel Forces, has been formed in al-Shahba province, located in Afrin canton north of Aleppo.
Consisting of Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, the Rebel Forces “pledge our people that we will fight terrorism in our country and expel the agendas of the Turkish army,” read a statement from the force as published by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday.
The statement said the force will fight against “invaders” and “those who destroy our country and kill our people, so that the aspiring occupiers can occupy our land” and accused Turkish forces of attacking villages in al-Shahba province.
Also on Wednesday, the SDF-linked al-Bab Military Council announced they would liberate their city from Turkish-backed forces.
“On behalf of the command of al-Bab Military Council, we promise our people in the region of al-Bab and its countryside that we are going to liberate every inch occupied by radical groups,” General Commander of the council Jamal Abo Jomaa said, according to local media outlet Ara News.
Al-Bab is located some 40 kilometres northeast of Aleppo.
Turkish forces entered northern Syria last summer as part of its Euphrates Shield operation that saw the Turkish army backing Free Syrian Army elements with the stated aim of clearing border areas of “terrorists” – naming both ISIS and Kurdish YPG forces.
ISIS occasionally carried out cross-border attacks on Turkish villages near Syria.
Turkey accuses the YPG of having ties to the PKK, a named terrorist organization, and has opposed Kurdish advances in northern Syria. In its Euphrates Shield operation, Turkey succeeded in preventing the Kurds from expanding its areas of control west of the Euphrates River and linking Afrin canton with its territory in the east.
Ankara declared its Euphrates Shield operation successfully complete in March, but said other operations in Syria could follow.
In recent months, Turkish forces and their Syrian allies have stepped up activities around Afrin canton, deploying troops to the area and frequently targeting Kurdish-controlled territory. They shelled villages under control of the SDF in the countryside north of Aleppo Tuesday night, the conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
According to the YPG, Turkey is also continuing work on a wall along its border with Afrin, opening fire on civilians approaching the area, thereby preventing farmers from harvesting crops. The YPG stated that people in the area “feel restless because of the attacks and threats of the Turkish state.”
In late July, the YPG warned they could withdraw from the alliance fighting ISIS in Raqqa if Turkey continues to increase attacks on al-Shahba and Afrin.
“We have shared our issue with the coalition. If the Turkish state continued its occupation attacks against Afrin and Shahba, the Raqqa operation will not continue,” YPG’s Sipan Hemo told PKK-affiliated ANF media at the time.
The YPG form the backbone of the US-backed SDF.