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

  • Fishermen take chilly challenge to raise money for Nova Scotia fire victims

    Canada News CTV News
    PUBNICO HEAD, N.S. -- Dozens of fishermen are plunging into frigid waters as part of a fundraising campaign, with some donations going to the survivors of a tragic fire in southwestern Nova Scotia. Todd Newell, a fisherman in Cape Sable Island, N.S. Source
  • Oxfam highlights sharp inequality as Davos elite gathers

    World News CTV News
    DAVOS, Switzerland -- A CEO from one of the world's top five global fashion brands has to work for just four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in an entire lifetime, campaigning group Oxfam International said Monday. Source
  • Quebec City Muslims alarmed by increasingly public displays of racism one year after mosque shooting

    Canada News CBC News
    Rachid Raffa is tired and bitter. It's been 43 years since he chose to settle in Quebec City after leaving Algeria. But as his encounters with racism become more commonplace, he's come to feel less at home. Source
  • Boy who endured 3 years as ISIS captive seeks meeting with PM Trudeau

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- A Yazidi boy who was held captive for three years by Iraqi militants before being reunited with his family in Winnipeg last year is requesting a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In a video posted to Facebook by the Yazidi Association of Manitoba, 13-year-old Tamoholds up a sign thanking Canada for helping him, followed by another sign stating that he wants to share his story and be a voice for other Yazidi children still in captivity. Source
  • Auto shop owner says police investigated Toronto murder suspect since October

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The owner of an auto parts shop says police had been investigating alleged murderer Bruce McArthur since early October, when they first came looking for a vehicle he sold. McArthur was arrested and charged with first-degree murder last week in the deaths of two missing men from Toronto's gay community, Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, and police believe there are more victims. Source
  • A side of generosity: N.B. restaurant serves homeless for free

    Canada News CTV News
    A Syrian-Canadian restaurateur is taking two hours every day to serve up some compassion in Moncton, N.B. Elian Elias’s pizza and Middle Eastern fare is on the house for anyone without a home if they drop by Mama’s Restaurant at the right time. Source
  • Mexico had over 29,000 murders in 2017, but homicide rate still lower than some Latin American nations

    World News CBC News
    Mexico posted its highest homicide rate in decades, with the government reporting Sunday there were 29,168 murders in 2017. The number is the highest since comparable records began being kept in 1997 and is also higher than the peak year of Mexico's drug war in 2011, when there were 27,213 murders. Source
  • Insurers say Canadian weather getting weirder

    Canada News CBC News
    If it seems as if the weather's getting weirder, you're not wrong. An index of extreme weather in Canada compiled by the insurance industry backs that up.VIDEO | Tofino resort experiences 'perfect storm' during extreme wave warning eventWEATHER ANALYSIS | The science behind the 'weather bomb' heading our way"Yes, we see definite trends that can't be explained by normal variability," said Caterina Lindman of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. Source
  • Yemeni deaths due to diphtheria likely to rise amid blockade

    World News CTV News
    SANAA, Yemen -- Deaths resulting from a diphtheria outbreak in Yemen are "likely to rise" if the naval blockade imposed by a Saudi-led coalition fighting to defeat Shiite rebels in war-torn Yemen remains in place, an international aid group warned on Monday. Source
  • Farmers Dairy milk pulled from shelves for 'off-taste flavour'

    Canada News CBC News
    Farmers Dairy has announced it's pulling several milk products from shelves in Atlantic Canada after customers reported a chemical taste.Farmers Dairy discontinues Beep for second time"This withdrawal is only preventive and there is no health risk associated with consuming these products," the company said in a statement posted to its Facebook page Saturday. Source