Why the fight in northern Syria is pivotal

BEIRUT -- Across a narrow strip of border territory near the Euphrates River, a ferocious battle with huge implications for Syria's civil war is playing out, one that also risks erupting into a regional conflict.

See Full Article

The fight for control of Aleppo pulls in all the major players in Syria's civil war over a prized strip of rebel-held land near the Turkish border.

A look at this stretch of territory sometimes referred to as the Azaz corridor:

THE GEOGRAPHY

The area is a nearly 100-kilometre (60-mile) border zone stretching from Azaz in the west to the town of Jarablus near the Euphrates River, down to the northern suburbs of Aleppo city. The zone is wedged between Kurdish-controlled areas to the east and west. It includes Azaz and Marea, two strongholds of Turkey-backed rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad; and Jarablus, al-Bab and Manbij, held by the Islamic State group. Syrian government troops, backed by Hezbollah and Iranian forces, are pushing toward the north from around Tel Rifaat. Warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition pound IS-held areas in the zone, while Russia, a key Assad backer, bombs the rebels.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

The outcome of the fight in Aleppo may to a large extent determine the outcome of the 5-year-old conflict. This is because the town of Azaz, with its border crossing of Bab al-Salameh, has been a lifeline for the opposition since it fell into rebel hands in 2012. A route known as the Azaz corridor links rebel-held eastern Aleppo with Turkey. If the rebels lose this corridor, they would effectively lose Aleppo. The entire border with Turkey would be sealed off, its control shifting to anti-Turkish Syrian government or Kurdish forces.

THE KURDS AND IS

Kurdish fighters, who have been the most successful in the war against IS and are allied with both the U.S. and Russia, control most of the 910-kilometre (565-mile) boundary with Turkey, interrupted only by a patch of rebel- and IS-held land. They are taking advantage of the chaos to advance and try to link the two enclaves they control to the east and west. They have advanced eastward from Afrin and from the west to the edge of Azaz, triggering alarm in Ankara, which responded with artillery on Kurdish positions. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday vowed the "harshest reaction" should the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, advance on Azaz, a town near the border held by anti-Assad rebels. The Kurds are also preparing to move in on IS-held areas, starting with Jarablus just east of the Euphrates.

A SAFE ZONE

Turkey has for years lobbied the international community for a no-fly zone in this strip of territory along its border -- a plan that opens the possibility of a safe haven for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians. Washington has long rejected that, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war. Last year, the U.S. and Turkey announced they would create an IS-free zone in the area, but that idea went nowhere. Turkey is still toying with the idea of a ground incursion to secure the area, but a Turkish official said Tuesday there will be no unilateral ground operation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly on the issue. Saudi Arabia has said it also is ready to send ground troops to Syria to fight IS and is sending warplanes to an air base in Turkey near the border.

HUMANITARIAN DISASTER

The fighting in Aleppo has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing toward the Turkish border, where they sleep in tents and open fields. It also has disrupted aid deliveries, putting more civilians at risk of being completely cut off. Aid groups estimate that more than 100,000 people have left Aleppo in the past two weeks because of fears the city would become besieged. Fears of more refugees flowing into Europe may change perspectives. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday backed the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians who might otherwise flee the country.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • B.C. police make major fentanyl bust

    Canada News CTV News
    Police in British Columbia say they have made numerous arrests and taken approximately $300,000 worth of fentanyl and other drugs off the streets. New Westminster Police Acting Sgt. Jeff Scott called the drug bust “very significant. Source
  • 'She was trying to right a wrong:' Trial begins in 2015 gas-and-dash death

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- The Crown prosecuting the hit-and-run death of a gas station worker says the woman died while she was trying to "right a wrong." Joshua Cody Mitchell is on trial for second-degree murder. Source
  • Canadians only now starting to get heads around pot legalization, forum told

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada's provinces, municipalities and Canadians themselves are only now really starting to come to grips with the pending legalization of marijuana, a forum heard Monday. Former justice minister Anne McLellan, who headed a national task force on the issue, said while a majority of people are in favour of legal pot, most don't understand what that means. Source
  • U.S. sanctions 271 Syrians who work on chemical weapons

    World News CBC News
    The United States on Monday blacklisted 271 employees of a Syrian government agency it said was responsible for developing chemical weapons, weeks after a chemical attack killed scores of people in a rebel-held province in Syria. Source
  • South African man pleads not guilty in family axe murders

    World News CTV News
    JOHANNESBURG -- A South African man accused of murdering three members of his family with an axe pleaded not guilty on Monday, saying he fought with a laughing attacker during the slaughter at their upscale home. Source
  • Dad, woman face second-degree murder charges after toddler found dead outside Edmonton church

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A man and woman are each charged with second-degree murder after a toddler was found dead outside a north Edmonton church on Friday, show court records. The child’s father, Joseph Crier, 26, is charged with second-degree murder, assault, assault causing bodily harm, failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence. Source
  • Some Mountie deaths in 2014 Moncton massacre may have been preventable: Crown

    Canada News CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. -- Some of the Mounties killed in a 2014 massacre in Moncton might have survived had the RCMP complied with labour laws, a Crown prosecutor told a judge Monday. Crown attorney Paul Adams said the vast majority of officers who responded to an active-shooter call lacked full training and requalification in firearms. Source
  • Alberta premier challenges Trump on cross-border trade comments

    Canada News CBC News
    Premier Rachel Notley is urging U.S. President Donald Trump to explain what he means when he mentions sectors that ought to be reviewed under Canada-U.S. trade agreements. Last week, Trump singled out the Canadian dairy industry, lumber and energy as sectors that should come under the microscope during an examination of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Source
  • World-famous iceberg drifting from Newfoundland town, mayor says

    Canada News CTV News
    FERRYLAND, N.L. -- The world's most famous intact iceberg appears to be on the move. Ocean currents appear to be sweeping the colossal iceberg away from tiny Ferryland, N.L., where it squatted this month and put the town of about 500 on the world's radar. Source
  • U.S. slams Syria with 271 sanctions

    World News Toronto Sun
    The United States has issued 271 sanctions in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. It’s one of the largest sanction actions in U.S. history. The Trump administration said Monday that it issued sanctions against 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons. Source