On February 24, units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) entered the villages of Tell Shaeir and Fafin south of the strategic town of Tell Rifaat in the northern Aleppo countryside, according to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Aleppo 24. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had reportedly withdrawn from its positions in the two villages ahead of the SAA deployment there.
The Russian news outlet Sputnik reported on February 22 that the Damascus government and the YPG had agreed on the transfer of control over the town of Tell Rifaat and the villages around it to the SAA. However, YPG officials are yet to confirm or deny Sputnik’s report.
The Damascus government and the YPG reached a similar agreement under which the YPG handed over all of its positions inside Aleppo city to the SAA on February 22. The YPG justified its withdrawal saying that its fighters were redeployed to the Afrin area.
The Tell Rifaat town and several other Arab villages around it are among the main goals of the ongoing Turkish Army military operation against the YPG in Afrin. Due to this, handing over these Arab towns to the SAA should a blow to the Turkish operation, as most of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters joined the operation to recapture these villages from the YPG.