Tal Rifat operation will not begin until Afrin area is secured and displacement from Eastern Ghouta to North Syria continues
Field and local developments:
On Wednesday, a leader of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) reported that the takeover of Tal Rifat city, 30 kilometers north of Aleppo, Northern Syria, will not begin before the area of Afrin is fully secured.
The leader, who calls himself Rami Abu Bahgat, told SMART that they will launch a security campaign on Thursday to clean the Afrin area of remaining Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). He added that the YPG were responsible for planting explosives.
Abu Bahgat said that the Tal Rifat operation will begin in 23 days, once the security campaign in Afrin ends, meaning that soon the people of the area will be able to return to their homes. He added, "We want the Kurdish people to return to Afrin because they are a large human resource that may be of benefit to the Syrian government."
On Wednesday, the Jaysh al-Ababil of the FSA expressed that the commanders of the opposing factions have a shared vision to save the towns of Yalda, Babila, and Beit Sahim (7 kilometers south of Damascus) from the tribulations of war.
Earlier today, local sources reported that Russian officers met with a military committee representing the opposing factions of Southern Damascus. Russian officers ordered the representatives to choose between reconciling with the Syrian government forces or relocating to Northern Syria. Abu al-Hakam, the head of the political office of Jaysh al-Ababil, told SMART that negotiations with the Russians are yet to result in an agreement, as the factions have not made their decision.
On Wednesday, the school of Harza village, 35 kilometers north of Idlib, Northern Syria, organized a sit-in to protest the policies of forced displacement and demographic change produced by Syrian government forces’ presence in various parts of Syria.
The students raised banners and drawings expressing their pity for the bombings and displacements happening in Syria, and solidarity with the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Eastern Ghouta. They also chanted slogans calling for freedom and performed a play about the "death" that is taking place in Syria.
The fifth group of IDPs from Eastern Ghouta arrived at the crossing at Qalat al-Madiq, 42 kilometers northwest of Hama, Central Syria.
Three thousand IDPs arrived at the town crossing escorted by the Syrian Red Crescent. The IDPs included 25 patients with fractures and burns, and the most critical cases were transferred to nearby hospitals.
On Wednesday, the Syrian Liberation Front announced its control of a village, which was controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), west of Aleppo, Northern Syria.
In a brief statement, the Syrian Liberation Front reported that it gained control of the village of Bisratoun (20 kilometres west of Aleppo), after clashes with the HTS, without mentioning the losses incurred by the two parties.
These developments coincide with clashes between the two parties in the areas of al-Muhandisoun countryside and Shamiku, as well as the town of Khan al-Asal. No information about injuries to civilians were reported, according to activists.
Activists also accused the HTS of kidnapping the director of the crossing of Murak town, north of Hama, Central Syria, to pressure the Syrian Liberation Front to exchange prisoners.
On Thursday, local activists told SMART that the HTS kidnapped the director of the crossing, Abdul Wahid Dali, near the town of Mouqa two days ago. They also reported that the HTS negotiated the Syrian Liberation Front to exchange the director with prisoners, but they did not reach an agreement.
On Wednesday, the YPG were placed on alert in al-Tabaqa city, 55 kilometers west of Raqqa, Northeast Syria, after people wrote pro-Syrian government slogans on the walls of city houses.
A source from the YPG, who refused to be named for security reasons, told SMART that unknown persons pasted pictures of the Syrian government President, Bashar al-Assad. The unknown persons also wrote words loyal to the Syrian government forces on the walls of the houses, such as "The Syrian army is coming,” and “Al-Assad, or we will burn the country." The YPG immediately removed these words and pictures.
The first military training course for the Special Forces (HAT) of al-Asayish graduated in the city of al-Tabaqa, 45 kilometers west of Raqqa, Northeast Syria.
On Wednesday, an official from the information office of the Syrian Democratic Forces, (which includes al-Asayish), reported that the course included 90 members who had gone through a six-month military training and political guidance.
A military source from the FSA told SMART that their thermal cameras detected an attempt by a group of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army (accused of allegiance to the Islamic State), trying to infiltrate the town of al-Bakar, west of Daraa, on Wednesday. Thus the FSA killed five members of the Khalid Army, after clashes with them.
Volunteers from the city of Jisr al-Shughur, 30 kilometers west of Idlib, Northern Syria, renovated the archaeological Grand Mosque of the city with individual efforts and donations.
One of the workers, Ahmad Safi, told SMART that the mosque was built in 1658 during the Ottoman Rule of Syria. It is characterized by its large dome, high minaret, and more than 50 arches. The mosque was hit by three airstrikes earlier.
Political and international developments:
On Thursday, the Turkish Prime Minister, Ben Ali Yildirim, reported that the establishment of the Syrian Future party in areas controlled by the Kurdish Autonomy Administration, Northern Syria, was an attempt by the Democratic Union Party, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist, to change its name.
Yildirim also reported at a press conference, "The Democratic Union Party could deceive some of Ankara's friends by changing its name, but it can’t do that with Turkey. When they take off the masks, their truth will be revealed," according to Anatolia agency.