Don't miss




Nobel physics laureate Gérard Mourou on revolutionising laser eye surgery

Read more


Renault names interim leaders as Ghosn's detention extended

Read more


Ethiopia's political crackdown: Government accused of targeting ethnic group

Read more


The fall of Carlos Ghosn: Japanese accuse Renault-Nissan boss of tax fraud

Read more


How a toxic pesticide poisoned French Caribbean island of Martinique

Read more


New show! The best of television this November

Read more


'Age old cities' exhibition: 'It's part of our history that's been destroyed'

Read more


Carlos Ghosn arrest: The fall from grace of a 'workaholic'

Read more


French government calls for interim leadership to replace Ghosn at Renault

Read more

Middle East

Video: On the frontline in the Syrian border city of Azzaz

© Screengrab FRANCE 24


Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-25

On the strategic road linking the northern Syrian border city of Azzaz to Turkey, Syrian rebel fighters backed by Ankara check vehicles to ensure Kurdish rebels do not infiltrate into Turkey.

In Syria’s mountainous Barsayah region, on a ridge overlooking Azzaz -- a historic city on the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border -- fighters from the Ankara-backed FSA (Free Syrian Army) are checking vehicles heading north.

Azzaz lies on a strategic road linking Turkey to Afrin, a Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to “crush” and seize from Kurdish control.

Turkey views the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia as an extension of the PKK, a Turkey-based Kurdish organisation considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the UN, US and the EU.

The YPG, however, has been backed by the US in the international fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, and the latest Turkish offensive into Syria has put Ankara at odds with its fellow NATO members.

Since Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch over the weekend, civilians have been fleeing the besieged enclave of Afrin as Turkish fighter jets have been pounding the district.

While casualty figures in the ongoing conflict have been hard to come by, the UN has warned that an estimated 323,000 civilians in Afrin are at risk and about 125,000 of them have already been displaced.

Here on the dusty highway linking Afrin to Turkey, FSA fighters, trained and armed by Ankara, are checking vehicles to prevent YPG fighters from infiltrating into Turkey.

FSA fighters stop a motorcycle making its way down the largely desolate road. “We left the day before yesterday...we fled the airstrikes with our children,” explained the motorcyclist.

While the FSA is largely comprised of Syrian Arab fighters, an FSA fighter insisted his unit had no animus against the Kurds. “God willing, it's our job to protect civilians, both here, and later on in the city of Afrin. The Kurds are our brothers -- what we're fighting against are the separatist ambitions of the YPG and the PKK.”

Different version of a Trump-Erdogan phone call

The offensive in northern Syria came as Turkey and the US offered different versions of a phone call Wednesday between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.

A White House statement said the US president had urged his Turkish counterpart to “deescalate, limit its military actions and avoid civilian casualties.”

Turkish officials, however, disputed the White House readout saying it did not “accurately reflect” the content of the two leaders’ discussions.

According to Turkish officials, Trump did not voice "concerns (about) escalating violence" over Operation Olive Branch.

The US president did not use the phrase "destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey," in reference to anti-US statements by Turkish government officials.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Turkish officials who declined to be named also said that during Wednesday's call, Trump assured Turkey that the US would no longer supply Syrian Kurdish militia with weapons.

Date created : 2018-01-25


    Turkey steps up assault on Kurdish-held Syrian enclave

    Read more


    Turkey shells Syria's Kurdish-controlled Afrin region

    Read more


    Turkey’s Erdogan pledges to uproot ‘terror nests’ in Kurd-controlled Syrian towns

    Read more