Published by ARA News on February 27, 2017

Syrian rebels during clashes against pro-Assad forces in Aleppo. File photo

Clashes erupted on Sunday between Syrian Islamist rebels and Syrian regime militias on the outskirts of Tadef town south of al-Bab city, in Aleppo Governorate, where dozens of casualties were reported.

“FSA engages in heavy clashes with regime militia near Tadaf, south of al-Bab, killing 22 regime fighters,” the Free Syrian Army said in a statement.

Sources close to the Assad regime said the death tolls reported by the FSA were exaggerated.

According to pro-regime media, the Turkish army was also involved in the clashes in support of the FSA rebels.

“They are worrying. Antagonistic actors are in mortar range of one another. It’s deeply destabilizing,” Aaron Stein, a senior resident fellow at the Atlantic Council told ARA News.

“Assad’s forces and the Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield forces are destined to clash. It was Russia that worked out the understanding that allowed Turkey to establish Euphrates Shield all the way to al-Bab city, but the Assad government does not like that situation,” Washington-based analyst Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News.

“Euphrates Shield is a platform for Turkey to seek to capture Raqqa, whereas Assad would like to capture Raqqa to further the narrative that he is fighting ISIS,” he added.

However, Heras said that the SDF forces are best positioned to take Raqqa.

“Neither Assad nor Turkey is all well-positioned as the US-backed SDF, but that is not what is at stake in the Tadef battle. What is at stake is geographical positioning to try to inherit control over Raqqa in the aftermath of the US-led campaign,” he told ARA News.

This is not the first time clashes break out between Islamist rebels and the Syrian army near al-Bab.

Moreover, three Turkish soldiers were killed by a Russian airstrike near Bab in the beginning of February.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News