Summary

The Aleppo province has witnessed a series of military phases over the past few months which led to radical changes related to power and control. The military changes would not stop at the capturing of the city of Aleppo by Assad’s forces being backed by the sectarian militias and Russia, or the capturing of Al-Bab city from Daesh by factions operating under the command of the Euphrates Shield Operation Room. The countryside of Aleppo would become a center for the mobilization of manpower belonging to the conflicting forces who are racing to gain control over as many towns and cities as they can.

The conflicting forces in Syria have been rivaling against each in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo over the past few months, turning them into a tense area where those forces are seeking to achieve military and political gains, which might draw the features of the upcoming phase of the war in Syria. The formation of Euphrates Shield Operation Room was a turning point of the conflict in the region. The factions operating under its command could force Daesh out of their main strongholds in north and east of Aleppo. The Euphrates Shield have not halted their operations at this point since they have more aims which are included in the Turkish plan of forming a safe zone in northern Syria that will be used to benefit Turkey in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the region.

The racing between the conflicting forces, mainly Assad’s forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Euphrates Shield forces being backed by Turkey, on the front lines in rural Aleppo, have resulted in light battles among them so far. This might evolve into heavy confrontations in the upcoming phase. It would also increase the suffering of the local civilians and the displaced whose houses and villages have been ravaged due to the war which has been ongoing for years now.

Since their capturing of areas in the countryside of Aleppo, Daesh have sought to capture all areas along the Turkey-Syria border. They succeeded in gaining control over 70 km of those areas. Then, they attempted to keep their relationship with Turkey as good as possible to maintain their logistic support, treat their wounded in Turkish hospitals and control the export and import of goods entering from Turkey to Syria, which was a lucrative business for the organization. The relationship reached its top that some Daesh affiliates would proudly announce their affiliation with the organization in Turkish towns and cities. At the same time, the organization practiced all kinds of terrorism to terrorize the locals in areas of its control, including arrest, displacement and brutal execution.

After Daesh kidnapped employees of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, Iraq, the relationship between them became tense. This led to the escalation of tension along Turkey-Syria border (northern Aleppo). After that, the relationship turned into a declared enmity between both parties. Daesh attempted to provoke Turkey by shelling populated areas in Turkey using mortar and artillery, in addition to claiming responsibility for a series of explosions that had rocked the country. Because Daesh became a serious danger for Turkey, the latter rushed to form and support Syrian military factions in rural Aleppo to expel the organization from areas along its border. The Turkish Airforce and Turkish army both participated in those operations. These led to the launching of the Euphrates Shield Operation, which was divided into three phases. In the first, they captured the Jarablus city and its countryside, in the second, they managed to expel Daesh from the entire area along Turkey-Syria border, while in the third they succeeded in liberating the city of Al-Bab.

Although Euphrates Shield succeeded in expelling Daesh from the region, civilians are still paying the heavy tax of the ongoing conflict in northern Syria, particularly northern Aleppo. This could pose a threat to the Turkish-backed safe zone. The consequences of the war have negatively affected the civilian life, mainly because of the poor administration of the liberated areas. The factions operating in them are placing their self-interests above the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the locals. The administrations are unable to cover all services to the civilians, meaning that they would not afford the new conditions which would emerge with the creation of a safe zone. Weapons are still carried in domesticated areas. Daesh VBIEDs are stilling in action and infighting between Euphrates Shield factions continue to occur. The Euphrates Shield Operation has also resulted in the fueling of the Arabs vs Kurds conflict in the region. These significant challenges are hindering the establishment of the safe zone which would be a home to civilians fleeing the war and conflicts in Syria. There must be practical solutions to help the locals in northern Syria and others restore a part of their ordinary and safe life.

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