Following a rebel request for Kurdish forces to conduct a complete withdrawal from Tall Rifaat yesterday, clashes have now erupted between the Kurdish YPG and Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Heavy skirmishes and artillery bombardment erupted near and around the Shabha Reservoir on Wednesday despite neither directly conceding villages to the other. Clashes were also observed yesterday on the eastern outskirts of Harbul and Shaykh Isa.
Both the FSA and YPG have captured considerable chunks of ISIS’ northern Aleppo territory in 2016.
In the past 48 hours, with ISIS continuously retreating from the region, Kurdish forces have seized the villages of Hassadjek, Qawl Suruj, Wardiyah, Wasitiyah, and Al-Ghoul, thus safeguarding the southwestern flank of the Shabha Lake.
Formerly, a string of Turkish-backed rebel advances threatened to block YPG fighters from linking up with their Kurdish allies further east at Manbij, a former ISIS stronghold liberated in late August. Currently, some 40 kilometers separate the two Kurdish-held regions of Efrin and Manbij.
Rebels and Kurds are no strangers to tensions in the Aleppo governorate; in April 2016, the YPG paraded 47 bodies of fallen FSA fighters through the city of Efrin after the latter conducted a failed offensive on Kurdish-held villages in the region.
Similarly, in May 2016, the YPG captured Shaykh Isa after somewhat opportunistically attacking the weaker flank of rebel forces who found themselves occupied by fending off several ISIS offensives at neighbouring Mare’.