ALEPPO, Syria — Information unfold just lately amongst common and navy quarters within the metropolis of al-Bab within the northeastern countryside of Aleppo concerning the Syrian regime and its Russian-backed allies launching a navy assault within the space, stirring anxiousness and controversy amongst residents of the town, which is managed by the Turkish-backed armed opposition.
The regime has been mobilizing reinforcements within the areas close to al-Bab because the starting of January amid considerations amongst locals that they could be a part of the navy buildup that portends a future navy operation geared toward controlling the strategic metropolis of al-Bab.
Latest statements by Mustafa Sejari, director of the political bureau of the Mutasim Brigade, a Free Syrian Military (FSA) faction, additional infected the considerations of al-Bab residents in a tweet on Jan. 2 when he stated, “We warn the worldwide group and the Group of Pals of the Syrian Folks of potential Russian aggression in opposition to the Syrian metropolis of al-Bab. We name on political forces and opposition establishments to take motion to herald navy assist for the [FSA].”
He added, “The [Bashar] al-Assad regime and its allies don’t consider within the political answer and are making ready for navy motion and a brand new aggression.”
The anticipated aggression over the town sparked debate amongst opposition ranks. Some warned of the risks and repercussions of such navy operations. Different FSA leaders refuted the chance of such aggression whereas underestimating the seriousness of the threats. In an try to allay the fears of the town’s residents, they additional denied the potential for any navy motion deliberate by the regime and its allies in opposition to al-Bab.
The spokesman for the Turkish-backed FSA, Maj. Yusuf Hamoud, instructed Al-Monitor, “We’ve got not monitored any actual navy indications of an imminent battle that the Syrian regime would possibly launch within the metropolis of al-Bab, nor are there any new enemy troops mobilized on these fronts. The information circulating concerning the withdrawal of some factions from some deployment factors on this entrance is just not appropriate. The factions are in fixed readiness for all prospects, particularly since our backstabbing enemy doesn’t honor any pledge or settlement.”
Al-Monitor additionally met with Sejari. “The warnings we issued relating to the [expected] navy operation by the regime and its allies on the town of al-Bab intention to attract the eye of the worldwide group and political opposition establishments in order that they assume their duties. They need to exert efforts to guard the residents of this metropolis and stop the enemy from implementing its plans.”
He warned that hiding data and information concerning the regime and Russia’s plans relating to the town of al-Bab might be disastrous. “The failure to take any motion and insisting on denying these threats underneath the pretext of reassuring the town’s residents is not going to assist.”
Sejari argued that al-Bab, from the Russian perspective, is exterior the scope of any settlement with Turkey and is relatively among the many listing of potential Russian navy targets. “The town, which has strategic significance, can also be a significant goal for terrorist teams. On the home stage, it’s nonetheless topic to battle between [opposition] factions’ forces, which brought on an absence of centralized safety and persevering with chaos.”
Al-Bab, the most important metropolis within the Euphrates Defend area, is witnessing ongoing safety chaos, with occasional assassinations and bombings. Giant numbers of refugees and displaced individuals from totally different Syrian areas had flocked to the town following Operation Euphrates Defend launched by the Turkish military in opposition to the Islamic State in August 2016 and after the Syrian opposition captured it in 2017.
The deputy head of the political bureau of the FSA-affiliated Al-Salam Brigade, Hisham Eskif, instructed Al-Monitor that threats to the town of al-Bab have to be addressed severely. He referred to as for a navy alert to counter and stop any sudden motion by the regime.
“The truth that the town of al-Bab is positioned on the M4 freeway is among the most essential the reason why the regime and its allies are concerned with it,” Eskif stated. “Controlling it’s a part of the plan that Russia intends to implement, which is to manage the primary roads in Syria and maintain the opposition away from them.”
The M4 worldwide highway extends from Hasakah in northeastern Syria via Ain Issa within the north of Raqqa and Manbij within the northeast of Aleppo, all the way in which to the town of al-Bab till it reaches Aleppo and the town of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.
The town thus holds strategic significance for Russia and the regime, similar to different cities on the identical highway. That they had made a number of makes an attempt to grab Jericho and Jisr al-Shughour, south of Idlib, and Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, and to oust the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from Ain Issa underneath the pretext of stopping the opposition and the Turkish military from controlling them.
Al-Farouk Abu Bakr, a navy commander within the FSA-affiliated Mutasim Brigade, instructed Al-Monitor, “Russia sees the town of al-Bab as an space exterior the scope of its understandings and agreements concluded with Turkey. Thus, a navy operation aimed to manage it if obligatory is just not unlikely. I consider that the alleged risk must be taken severely, not denied.”
On this context, Al-Monitor met Mohamad Bukaie, a lecturer in political sciences at opposition universities within the countryside of Aleppo. “I don’t suppose the regime and its allies will launch any navy operation in opposition to al-Bab at the moment. The town has a symbolic which means for Turkey and is deemed one of the vital essential and largest cities within the Euphrates Defend space. Turkey has been offering the town with providers and repairing colleges. It is not going to simply abandon it.”
For his half, Mohammed Adeeb, a researcher in Islamic teams based mostly within the northern countryside of Aleppo, instructed Al-Monitor, “The regime and Russia lack their typical excuses this time to launch a navy operation in opposition to al-Bab, even when it is very important them as the town is just not ruled by militant organizations. It’s managed by reasonable factions and is topic to Turkish administration. Subsequently, the potential for launching a navy operation is unlikely, no less than in the meanwhile.”