FILE (Photo credit: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Clashes and high tensions continue raging between two Turkish-backed armed groups in northern Syria — the Syrian National Army (SNA) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) — with most of the violence centered in the cities and towns of northeastern Aleppo.
Local media reported that HTS is rushing to capture the significant opposition stronghold of Azaz city, and that the group took control of Kafr Jannah town on 17 October, along with several villages in the vicinity of Afrin.
On the same night, dozens of civilians headed towards the Bab al-Salama border crossing with Turkey to protest against the entry of an HTS convoy into the countryside of Aleppo.
Since Monday morning, civilians have blocked the road between Azaz and Afrin with earth mounds amid a partial strike in the city.
Just days after an agreement was reached to end the fighting between the HTS and SNA, each side has accused the other of violating the deal and of wanting to prove itself as “a force that fights corruption.”
The first agreement between HTS and the SNA was concluded on 14 October. The deal was highly fragile due to intricate arrangements for sharing political, economic, and security authority in the areas captured by HTS and its allies.
A day after the deal was signed, HTS and the SNA announced a new agreement to restore calm to the northern countryside of Aleppo. The new deal grants HTS — formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front — almost complete control over the Afrin region.
The new agreement effectively divides the opposition-held northern countryside of Aleppo into two parts: the Afrin district, which HTS controls, and an area controlled by the SNA, which includes the Azaz, Jarablus, and Al-Bab districts.
The fighting sparked due to the involvement of fighters from the SNA in the killing of Muhammad Abdul Latif (Abu Ghannoum) activist and his pregnant wife in Al-Bab city on 7 October.