BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:15 A.M.) – Photo evidence has emerged that shows Syrian flags flying high over the Kurdish-held town of Maarnaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
The town of Maarnaz is within several hundred meters of the frontier between Kurdish-controlled lands and territories controlled by Turkish-backed militants. Directly to the north of Maarnaz, within three kilometers of it, is the rebel-controlled stronghold of Azaz.
This development confirms that pro-government forces (led by security detachments of the Russian Ground Forces) have entered Afrin Cantoon amid a recent escalation between the Ankara government and the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Syria, in which the former as threatened a direct invasion of de facto Kurdish-controlled territory that runs parallel to the Turkish border for many hundreds of kilometers.
Furthermore it seems that Maarnaz is not the only YPG-held town in Afrin Cantoon to have been entered into by pro-government forces, with video evidence emerging of other towns and villages near the Turkish border now coming under the join military supervision of pro-government forces.
— RusSyrianWariors (@Ruswariors) May 2, 2017
It is very much within the interest of pro-government forces to deter a Turkish invasion of Afrin Cantoon, since a Turkish-backed rebel takeover of the territory would effectively link the Islamist bastion of Idlib to the Islamist bastion of northern Aleppo. Such a development would profoundly strengthen the position of armed groups like Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (designated as a terrorist organization), Ahrar al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria to the absolute detriment of pro-government forces.