The Syrian city of Tal Rifaat, northeast of Afrin, and the Menagh military airbase, which has been used by PKK terrorists to transport arms, are both strategically vital to Turkey’s efforts to rid the region of terrorists.
Home to more than 20,000 residents, mostly Arabs, according to the 2004 census, Tal Rifaat had around 40,000 residents, including the Syrians who fled their hometown, and had become a war zone long before Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Syria.
Tal Rifaat is just 35 kilometers from the Aleppo city center and is currently controlled by the terrorist PYD/PKK. It is seen as a natural extension of Turkey's Afrin counter-terrorist operation, as the city was captured by PKK terrorists from Afrin.
According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, nearly 75,000 people fled Afrin to go to Tal Rifaat during Operation Olive Branch.
After the Syrian war erupted in 2011, in 2012 regime forces withdrew from Tal Rifaat, leaving it to groups such as the Al-Shamiyya Front, Sokour al-Jabal, and Fastaqim, which were fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
The city was under Daesh control between November 2013 and January 2014 and then was retaken by the Free Syrian Army.
PKK control in 2016
Tal Rifaat came under heavy bombardment during the siege of Aleppo by Syrian regime and Russian forces. In February 2016 it was taken by PYD/PKK terrorists.
When the PYD/PKK set up local councils affiliated to the so-called “Afrin canton” to manage the city, some Tal Rifaat residents had to flee to refugee camps in the town of Azaz in northern Aleppo.
The city was directly targeted by Russia during the regime siege of Aleppo.
The goal was to open space for the terrorist group to continue its occupation, easing the siege by cutting off the route between Turkey and Aleppo.
Tal Rifaat was a direct target of the PYD/PKK as part of their goal to create a Kurdish corridor, as the city connects Afrin which was cleared by the Turkish Army during Operation Olive Branch and the eastern regions of Syria which were under PYD/PKK control.
In April 2016, after killing 50 Free Syrian Army (FSA) members in a clash in the northern village of Ayn-Dakna in Tal Rifaat, members of the PYD -- the PKK's terrorist Syrian affiliate -- transported the dead bodies in an open-top trailer.
Residents of Tal Rifaat were also targeted many times by Russian warplanes, causing the death of a number of civilians.
Menagh Airbase, Tal Rifaat critical
Taking control of Menagh Airbase, Tal Rifaat, and the towns of Deir Jamal and Sheikh Isa is very important for clearing the area of the terror threat and providing safety as part of Operation Olive Branch.
Menagh Airbase is important as it has been used by the terrorist group to transport ammunition and weapons. Tal Rifaat, Deir Jamal, and Sheikh Isa have been important as these are the last areas in northwestern Syria except for Manbij where the PYD/PKK is still in control.
Reporting by Burcu Calik; Writing by Sibel UgurluAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.