On November 18, the Turkish military and several Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups launched a large-scale security operation against the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs Gathering and other armed groups of the Olive Branch force, which occupies the northern area of Afrin.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs Gathering and its allies are accused of corruption and several other crimes. According to the pro-opposition monitoring group, the Hamza Division, the Sultan Murad Division, the al-Sham Corps and the 3rd Corps are supporting the ongoing operation against the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs.
“Turkish forces and the factions blocked the roads leading to the city of Afrin and besiged several district within the city, the most violent clashes are taking place in the street of Vilat in Afrin,” the SOHR said in its report.
Meanwhile, sources liked to the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs Gathering confirmed that the group is still holding its positions in Afrin. Furthermore, several armed groups have arrived in the city in order to support the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs.
While pro-opposition sources claim that Turkey is attacking the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs Gathering because of its corruption, local observers believe that Turkey wants to eliminate the group because it is not obeying its orders. According to this version, many of the groups currently attacking the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs are far more corrupt, like the Hamza Division.
Last month, leader of the al-Sharqiyah Martyrs Gathering, Abu Khula, announced that he will dissolve his armed group and the group will hand over all of its weapons and vehicles to the military judiciary in the Euphrates Shield (ES) area in the northern Aleppo countryside.
Back then, opposition sources said that Turkey pressured Abu Khula to make this decision in order to punish him for launching a unauthorized attack on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the village of Tadef, which is covered by a de-escalation agreement.
This confirms that corruption is not the real motivation behind the ongoing security operation and shows how Turkey is willing to fight its very own proxies in order to keep them under control.