Ankara, Beirut-While Ankara is preparing to present a plan to form a “safe zone” inside Syria reinforced by its latest agreement with Russia and Iran, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) plans to attack the ISIS-controlled region of Jarablus from inside Turkey to prevent any Kurdish hopes to control the area.
A rebel official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that hundreds of opposition fighters are expected to assault Jarablus from inside Turkey in the next few days.
“The factions are gathering in an area near the border (inside Turkey),” the rebel said.
If FSA fighters control Jarablus, the area would be saved from an attack expected by Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance with a majority of Kurdish factions, which had lately succeeded to recuperate the city of Manbij from the hands of ISIS.
Turkey is considered an important supporter of the FSA. Ankara fears that the expansion of the SDF in the West to fight ISIS would spread the group’s influence in several parts of North Syria.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey has never relinquished its efforts to establish an isolated zone inside the Syrian borders to include Syrian refugees and prevent the formation of a Kurdish state on its border, although NATO and the U.S had previously rejected the plan.
The sources hinted that Turkey had put back this issue on the discussion tables with each of Russia and Iran, as Ankara aims to establish this zone on the Aazaz-Jarablus line, and to prevent an objection from Bashar Assad’s regime. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim hinted last week about the possibility to accept Assad during a transitional phase in Syria.
The sources expected that Ankara would also stir the issue during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Turkey this week.
Jarablus, on the western bank of the Euphrates river, is the last significant town held by ISIS militants on Syria’s border with Turkey.
The rebel official also said ISIS was seen withdrawing its members from the city of Jarablus in the past few days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the families of ISIS members have been evacuated from Jarablus and the city of Bab al-Qariba towards Reqqa, the stronghold of the terrorist organization.
The official added the operation in Jarablus aims to end the presence of ISIS on the Turkish border, adding that the battle would be difficult.
The coordination between Turkey and Syrian opposition factions against ISIS in Jarablus abolishes speculation that the rapprochement between Ankara and each of Moscow and Tehran would put an end to Turkey’s alliance with the Syrian opposition.