As violent clashes among pro-Turkish factions in northern Syria continued, Syrian Kurdish forces launched a surprise attack against faction positions in Aleppo governorate on Monday.
At least 14 fighters from pro-Turkish factions were killed in the attack in the village of Ablah, on the outskirts of al-Bab, while five others were injured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
In a statement cited by Agence France-Presse, SOHR chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the Afrin Liberation Forces, a group of Kurdish fighters from Afrin, were behind the attack, taking advantage of the infighting among Syrian factions loyal to Ankara.
Opposition media outlets also reported on the attack, saying the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (of which the Afrin Liberation Forces is part) attacked positions affiliated with the Ahrar Olan group in Ablah amid artillery support alleged to come from government forces.
The attack comes against the background of infighting between two rival wings within the Ahrar Olan group, according to pro-opposition Shaam news network. The fighting over control and influence in the area is pitting a wing close to the pro-Turkish Syrian National Army and another loyal to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda affiliate that controls the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey and its allied Syrian factions control most of northern Syria after three major offensives against Kurdish forces in the area by the Turkish army.
In 2019, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units — which Ankara views as a terrorist group — withdrew from northern Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long sought to establish a safe zone along Turkey’s southern border with Syria devoid of any Kurdish elements.