SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JANUARY 31, 2018: TURKISH MILITARY COLUMN IS HIT BY CAR BOMB IN SOUTHWESTERN ALEPPO – By Uprooted Palestinians

On January 30, a Turkish vehicle was destroyed and few others were damaged in a car bomb attack as a military convoy of the Turkish Armed Forces was passing the town of Atarib in the province of Aleppo.

According to initial reports from the ground 2 or 3 service members were killed in the attack. The media wing of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) even claimed that the convoy was struck by an artillery shelling or an air strike by pro-government forces.

Later, the Turkish General Staff denied the initial reports and said that a civilian support worker of the TAF had been killed as well as another civilian worker and a service member had been injured in the incident.

The military added that it was deployed in the area under a de-escalation deal reached with Russia and Iran during the Astana talks in May.

According to reports, the convoy was heading to Al Eis, which is located near positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in southern Aleppo. If the TAF is able to strengthen its presence there, it will be able to prevent the SAA from advancing on militants in the area. It’s interesting to note that Al Eis is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Thus, statements from the Turksih leadership that its forces are going to combat the terrorist group are at the least very questionable.

Meanwhile, the SAA resumed operations against ISIS in northeastern Hama and captured the hills of Rasm Dahil and Tawilah. The tactical goal of the ongoing advance is to capture the village of Jubb Zrayq and to increase pressure on ISIS terrorists in the entire pocket.

West of Abu al-Duhur, the SAA secured al Azu, Jafr and Khafiya and advanced on Halban, Zahbia, Jadida and Tawil Halib. The town of Abu al-Duhur still remains vulnerable to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacks from the northern direction. So, the SAA will need to further expand the buffer zone soon.

The TAF and the Turkish-backed part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the villages of Sati Ushaghi and Khalil Kulku and advanced in the direction of Point 915 in the Afrin area. Kurdish YPG/YPJ forces conducted a series of attacks on positions of the TAF and the FSA in Barsaya Mount but failed to regain it.

The TAF and the FSA launched their operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin on January 20. Since then, they have been able to achieve only limited gains despite a clear advantage in the firepower and military equipment. Meanwhile, statements by the TAF’s general staff that over 649 Kurdish fighters have been killed during the operation also look questionable.

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