Russian military police accompany SAA troops into Deraa al-Balad. (Photo credit: @syrseal44)
On 30 November, Russia reportedly sent reinforcements to the Tal Rifaat region, about 15 kilometers from the Turkish border. The region is under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Moscow’s move is a response to a looming Turkish ground invasion, which seems more likely after Turkiye sent reinforcements to the Syrian border and advised the Syrian National Army (SNA) to prepare for an attack.
According to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Russian forces have increased their presence in Kurdish-controlled areas since Turkiye launched a series of airstrikes on targets in northern Syria and Iraq in response to a bomb attack in Istanbul.
Residents from Tal Rifaat reported that Russian reinforcements have arrived and set up new barricades between Kurdish and pro-Turkish areas in the region. According to Al-Arabiya news, Tal Rifaat, which is controlled by Kurdish forces, is surrounded on one side by the Syrian army, and on the other by Turkish-backed opposition forces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also stated that Russian forces had consolidated their presence at the Menagh military airport close to Tal Rifaat, controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
SOHR also noted that the Russians are reinforcing their forces near Kobani. “The purpose of these reinforcements may be to hinder or delay the Turkish military operation,” SOHR security official Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Anonymous Turkish sources also revealed to Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 30 November that serious talks mediated by Russia are taking place to ensure the withdrawal of the Kurdish units and the deployment of the Syrian Arab Army on the border with Turkey, in an effort to prevent the Turkish ground offensive.
Russian military officials have reportedly been meeting with senior SDF commanders on a regular basis over the past few days.
A Russian military base was reportedly struck on 23 November in the latest wave of Turkish air strikes in northeast Syria, according to a Kurdish official.
The air strike, which targeted a base in the Hasakah province, reportedly killed one Kurdish fighter belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and wounded three others, said SDF chief Farhad Chami.
The Turkish military struck nearly 500 Kurdish targets in Iraq and Syria since it began a series of airstrikes as part of Operation Claw-Sword, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a press conference, according to The New Arab.
On the other hand, on 22 November, the White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, endorsed Turkey’s attacks on northern Syria, saying the country has a right to defend itself.