SDF insurgency in Northern Aleppo

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SDF insurgency in Northern Aleppo
Part of the Syrian Civil War and Operation Olive Branch
Date25 March 2018 – 9 August 2019
(1 year, 4 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)
4 December 2019 – present[3]
(8 months and 1 week)
Status Ongoing

Syrian Democratic Forces

Afrin Liberation Forces (HRE)

Various other insurgent groups[1]
Supported by:
 Syria (per Turkey)[2]
Kurdistan Workers' Party (per Turkey)
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA)
Units involved

Syrian Democratic Forces

Insurgent groups

Syrian National Army

National Front for Liberation

Casualties and losses

Per SOHR:[6]
86 killed

Per SDF:[7][8]
65 killed

Per Turkey:[9][10]

865 killed, wounded or captured

Syrian opposition 175 killed[11][12]
Turkey 18 killed[13]

Per SDF:[7][8]
Syrian oppositionTurkey 971 killed

Per Turkey:
Syrian opposition 16 killed (first days only)[14]
Turkey 12 killed[15]

The SDF insurgency in Northern Aleppo refers to a campaign of armed attacks carried out by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), following the expansion of the Turkish occupation of northern Syria after the early 2018 Operation Olive Branch carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA).


Shortly after the defeat of the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin Region, the spokeswoman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (Syria) (PYD), had already announced that the SDF would fight Turkish and allied opposition forces using guerilla tactics.[16][17] The YPG also stated "We reiterate that these terrorists and their families are the main targets of our forces. Our forces will target all the elements in the Afrin Canton that are in contact or cooperation with the Turkish invasion state."[18][19] The "Wrath of Olives" operations room was established in early summer 2018, although the YPG has denied affiliation with the group.[20]

By May 2018, an insurgency had broken out in the Afrin District, as the YPG[21] along with allied militants, as well as an armed insurgent group called the "Afrin Falcons",[22] began carrying out bombings, ambushes and assassinations against the Turkish Army, SNA forces, and civilians sympathetic or affiliated with them.[21][23] Other areas with pro-SDF guerilla activity include Azaz and al-Bab, which have been under Turkish occupation since 2016.



By mid-2018, the insurgency was mostly focused on the rural areas[21][23] and Afrin city's outskirts, where the Turkish Air Force targeted guerilla holdouts between May and July.[21][24] In May, the YPG killed the former leader of the Free East Ghouta Police, Jamal al-Zaghloul, who had been tasked with police duties in Afrin, with a mine in al-Basouta, south of Afrin city. Following his death, the YPG stated that "anyone in cooperation with the invasion forces is our target".[25]


  • 9 August - The National Front for Liberation (NFL) clashed with the YPG in Kafr Nabu and Ba'ai in the southern part of the Afrin district near the border with the Idlib Governorate. Four YPG fighters were killed and several light weapons and explosives were captured by the NFL. An NFL representative told journalists that the group had been monitoring the YPG cell for months as the area had seen heightened levels of violence, mainly assassinations targeting fighters and civilians with links to the Syrian National Army (SNA) by YPG cells active in the region.[26]
  • 26 August - The YPG released a video showing the assassination of an al-Rahman Legion commander, Abu Muhammad Al-Shmali, in Babili.[27]


  • 3 December - Jaysh al-Islam claimed to have foiled an attempted YPG infiltration in northwestern Aleppo, in the town of Deir Mushmush.[28]
  • 21 December - the Afrin Liberation Forces (HRE), a pro-YPG insurgent group, was established and released a press statement laying out the group's goals; the group stated that they seek to end the "occupation of their areas" and that they would carry out operations as part of a "justified war" until the region is "liberated". The statement also claimed responsibility for two attacks: one on 18 December involving the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED) against Turkish soldiers, claiming as many as six men had been injured and killed, and another attack on the same date, the detonation of another IED on forces of the Hamza Division.[29]



  • 20 January - an explosion killed and injured dozens in Afrin city. A medical source claimed that the attack resulted in three dead and 12 injured.[30] On the same day, the HRE claimed to have attacked construction equipment belonging to Turkish forces used for building trenches and tunnels, stating that jihadist fighters allied with the Turkish military had been killed during the attack.[31]
  • 23 January - two bombings occurred outside the headquarters of Ahrar al-Sharqiya in the town of Rajo in the Afrin district. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Three members of the group were killed by the bombs.[32]


  • 21 February - A car bombing occurred near a hospital in Afrin city during a Syrian National Army parade, pro-YPG media outlets stated that casualties occurred as a result of the bombing.[33]
  • 24 February - A member of the Sultan Murad Division was killed by an IED while attempting to dismantle it.[34]


  • 8 April - The Turkish military began training allied rebel forces on air landing via helicopters in Afrin in anticipation of possible planned operations against SDF.[35]
  • 11 April - Clashes broke out between Turkish backed forces and Kurdish fighters from YPG in northern Aleppo. The Free Syrian Army fired artillery and mortars at YPG lines and heavy machine gun fire was also used. The clashes reportedly came after a series of heightened tension between SDF and Turkey with the Turkish military recently sending reinforcements to Jarabulus and areas near Manbij which is currently under SDF control.
  • 12 April - Turkish forces shelled YPG positions near Tell Rifaat. The YPG responded by shelling positions under Turkish and allied rebel control. Russian military police had withdrawn from the location two days before.[36]


  • 4 May - Clashes erupted between Turkish and allied Free Syrian Army forces with the YPG over the death of two Turkish soldiers. During the fighting the Free Syrian Army captured three villages in the northern part of the Tell Rifaat Subdistrict from the YPG, and later withdrew.


  • 5 August - HRE stated that it attacked and killed 8 fighters belonging to Ahrar al-Sham and Suqour al-Sham at a base near Mare' and injuring another 4, using AK47 rifles and PK light machine guns as well as RPG-7s. On the same day, HRE also stated that it attacked a Hamza Division base near al-Bab, saying that 3 Hamza Division members were killed and 3 were injured.[37]
  • 9 August - HRE stated that it has killed 7 Turkish soldiers during an attack on a Turkish military checkpoint.[38]




  • 20 March - Clashes at Basuta occur west of Tel Rifaat between the Afrin Liberation Forces and the TFSA. Injuries from Firqat al Hamza were taken to the Military Hospital in Afrin according to a local source.[45]
  • 28 April - A bombing in Afrin killed 53 people, including 11 children. Turkey blamed the YPG, who blamed the frequent rebel infighting. According to the head of the British-based Observatory for human rights in Syria, at least six pro-Turkish Syrian fighters were among those killed in the blast with a possibility of increase in the death toll.[46][12] At least 47 people were reported injured, according to Al Jazeera.[47] The explosion was believed to have been caused by the rigging of a fuel tanker with hand grenades, the governor of Hatay province of the neighboring Turkish border stated.[48] Many people, alongside those who got trapped in their cars were burnt to death as a result of the blast, Syrian activists disclosed.[49][50]
  • 21 May - A former ISIL commander named Abu Zaki al-Taybani, who was the head of ISIL's military operations in the Hama Governorate was killed by a CJTF-OIR drone strike in Afrin. He had defected to the Syrian National Army and had previously executed several members of ISIL's former off shoot and rival Hayat Tahrir al-Sham prior to defecting to the SNA, and reportedly had over 200 thousand dollars in his vehicle.[51][52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wrath of the Olives: Tracking the Afrin Insurgency Through Social Media". bellingcat. March 1, 2019.
  2. ^ "Damascus or Washington — which side will the YPG choose?". Damascus or Washington — which side will the YPG choose?.
  3. ^ Kurdish-led Afrin Liberation Forces attack Turkish base in Syria: video
    HRE operations conjunction on 2nd anniversary Turkish attacks on Afrin
    Resistance against Turkish forces in Raqqa grows increasingly violent
    One killed, seven others wounded in northern Syria - Turkey
  4. ^ "Marxist Insurgents in Afrin: Small arms of TİKKO fighters". Calibre Obscura. April 6, 2019.
  5. ^ "Three Turkish-backed mercenaries killed in Afrin's Bilbile district". YPG Press Office. 2 December 2018.
  6. ^ 1,586 SDF were killed by 21 March 2019,[1] of which 1,500 were killed by 21 March 2018,[2] leaving a total of 86 SDF reported killed during this period of the insurgency.
  7. ^ a b "YPG: 2422 Turkish soldiers and mercenaries killed in 2018". ANF News.
  8. ^ a b Network, Rojava (January 4, 2020). "Afrin liberation forces: 621 terrorists and Turkish occupation army soldiers were killed 455 terrorists and TSK wounded 9 ALF guerilla soldiers were martyred in actions and airstrikes".
  9. ^ "Erdogan says 3,747 terrorists 'neutralized' in Afrin op".
  10. ^ "Turkey neutralizes 154 terrorists in April: Defense Ministry". Anadolu Agency. 29 April 2019.
  11. ^ 613 TFSA were killed by 21 March 2019,[3] of which 447 were killed by 21 March 2018,[4] leaving a total of 166 TFSA reported killed during this period of the insurgency. Another 3 TFSA were killed in July-August 2019.[5]
  12. ^ a b "Fuel truck bomb kills more than 40 in northern Syria".
  13. ^ 96 TAF were killed by 11 October 2019,[6][7][8] of which 78 were killed by 21 March 2018,[9] leaving a total of 18 TAF reported killed during this period of the insurgency.
  14. ^ "Afrin beginning to look less like a victory for Turkey as YPG mounts guerrilla campaign". The National.
  15. ^ 61 TAF were killed by 11 October 2019,[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] of which 49 were reported killed by 22 March 2018,[17] leaving a total of 12 TAF reported killed during this period of the insurgency.
  16. ^ "Turkish Led Forces Seize Centre Syria's Afrin" Middle East Eye 18 March 2018 Archived 20 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Saleh-moslem-guerrilla-warfare-begins-in-afrin" anfenglish 18 March 2018 Archived 11 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Syrian Kurdish forces threaten families of Turkey's allies in Afrin – Ahval". Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  19. ^ Wilgenburg, Wladimir van. "YPG will target any group working with Turkish army in Afrin". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  20. ^ "YPG rejects involvement in attacks by mysterious groups in Afrin". Kurdistan24.
  21. ^ a b c d Borzou Daragahi (13 July 2018). "Turkey Has Made a Quagmire for Itself in Syria". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  22. ^ Sirwan Kajjo (30 June 2018). "Twin explosions mark new tensions in Afrin". Ahval. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  23. ^ a b Wladimir van Wilgenburg (17 July 2018). "YPG continues attacks on Turkish army and rebels in Afrin". Kurdistan 24. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  24. ^ "After 54 Days of Controlling the Area, Turkish Warplanes Bomb North of Afrin, In Conjunction with Ground Shelling Accompanies A Direct Confrontation Between the Kurdish And Turkish Forces • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights". May 11, 2018.
  25. ^ Bahira al-Zarier; Justin Clark; Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim; Ammar Hamou (14 May 2018). "Hidden explosives stunt movement, frighten Afrin residents two months into pro-Turkish rule". SYRIA:direct. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  26. ^ "أربعة قتلى لـ "الوحدات" الكردية في منطقة عفرين بمواجهات مع "الحر"".
  27. ^ "YPG assassinated high ranking FSA commander in Afrin". AMN – Al-Masdar News.
  28. ^ Aboufadel, Leith (December 3, 2018). "Jaysh Al-Islam foils YPG attack in northwestern Aleppo".
  29. ^ "Afrin Liberation Forces carried out 2 operations in Afrin - ANHA | HAWARNEWS | English".
  30. ^ "VIDEO: Explosion kills, injures over a dozen in Syria's Afrin". Kurdistan24.
  31. ^ "Afrin Liberation Forces hit invaders in Mare". ANF News.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Explosion in Afrin". ANF News.
  34. ^ اليوم, HalabToday حلب (February 24, 2019). "فرقة السلطان مراد في الجيش الوطني تنعي مقاتلاً لها قضى في انفجار دراجة مفخخة في قرية مشعلة بعفرين خلال محاولة تفكيكها".
  35. ^ Desk, News (April 8, 2019). "Turkish military begins air landing drills for Syria operation".
  36. ^ Desk, News (April 11, 2019). "Turkish Army attacks Kurdish forces near key town in northern Aleppo".
  37. ^ Barić, Joško (August 5, 2019). "Syrian War Daily – 5th of August 2019".
  38. ^ "HRE: 7 Turkish soldiers eliminated in Afrin - ANHA | HAWARNEWS | English".
  39. ^ "SON DAKİKA HABERİ: Azez'de 2 asker şehit".
  40. ^ "Two Turkish soldiers killed in Kurdish attack in Afrin: ministry".
  41. ^ Paget, Sharif; Guerrero, Kay; Tuysuz, Gul; Khadder, Kareem. "Car bomb kills 15, injures 50 in northern Syria". CNN. Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  42. ^ "Deadly car bomb blasts rip through bus terminal in Syria's al-Bab". Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  43. ^ "At least 10 killed in car bomb in Syria near Turkish border". Sky News. Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  44. ^ "War monitor says 19 dead after car bombing in northern Syria". RTÉ News. 2019-11-16. Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  45. ^ "Clashes at Basuta, west of Tel Rifaat between the Afrin Liberation Forces and TFSA. Injuries from Firqat al Hamza have been taken to the Military Hospital in Afrin according to a local source Aleppo Governorate". Map of Syrian Civil War - Syria news and incidents today -
  46. ^ "Bomb blast kills 40 people in Syria's Afrin: Turkey". Reuters.
  47. ^ "Fuel truck bomb blast kills dozens in Syria's Afrin: Turkey".
  48. ^ "Syria war: Dozens killed in truck bomb attack at Afrin market".
  49. ^ "Attack in Syria Town Run by Turkish-Backed Fighters Kills 40".
  50. ^ "PKK/YPG supporters rejoice in the Afrin terror attack". PKK/YPG supporters rejoice in the Afrin terror attack.
  51. ^
  52. ^