Reports: Assad and Erdogan Finally Come Head-to-Head in Syrian War Theater

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters and Turkish troops gather at a position east of the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, facing positions held by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Army (SDF), on October 28, 2019. (Photo by Nazeer Al-khatib / AFP) (Photo by NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s state-run Fars news agency on Monday reported Syrian Army units advancing to the Turkish border region have skirmished with invading Turkish forces.

Syrian media said a Turkish soldier was killed by rocket and mortar fire, although it did not specify who fired the weapons.

The Fars article extensively cataloged Syrian military deployments into the path of the Turkish invasion, listing a number of villages it said “warmly welcomed” the troops. 

Fars did not detail the “clashes” between Syrian and Turkish forces, saying only that they occurred in the rural area of Ras al-Ein near the Turkish border. Fars claimed the Turks attacked the Syrian army as it moved into position.

Syria’s state-run SANA news service reported on Sunday that a “soldier from the Turkish occupation forces was killed and five others were injured” during acts of “Turkish aggression.”

The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed the casualty but said it occurred during a raid by “PKK/YPG terrorists” against Turkish troops who were “conducting reconnaissance and surveillance activities.”

The PKK is a violent Kurdish separatist party in Turkey. The YPG or “People’s Protection Units” is the primary militia organization of the Syrian Kurds, supported by the United States as a battlefield ally against ISIS. Turkey considers the two groups to be one and the same, as the Defense Ministry’s statement asserted.

The Turkish Defense Ministry claimed its forces “returned fire” after it came under attack and “confirmed targets were neutralized.”

SANA reported that Syrian army units are “continuing deployment in other areas in framework of their national duties in facing the Turkish aggression and its mercenaries and defending the locals.” 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) are withdrawing from the same area, as anticipated by the agreement reached between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, last week.

SANA quoted a source at the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry who “welcomed the withdrawal of armed groups in northern Syria to a depth of 30 km through the direct coordination with the Syrian Arab Army in a way that ends the basic pretext for the brutal Turkish aggression against the Syrian territories.”

The SDF issued a statement on Sunday that after “extensive discussions with the Russian Federation on our previous objection to some terms of the memorandum,” it is ready to implement the Sochi agreement.

“The SDF is redeploying to new positions away from the Turkish-Syrian border across northeast Syria in accordance with the terms of the agreement in order to stop the bloodshed and to protect the inhabitants of the region from Turkish attacks. Our forces in the border zone are being replaced by border guards of the central government,” the SDF statement said.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.