On March 25, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed during a speech in the city of Trabzon that the Arab city of Tal Rifaat and the villages around it are the next main target of the Turkish Army and its proxies of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“We made our decision and entered the field. In short time, we will control Tal Rifaat and end the operation [Olive Branch],” Erdogan said in Trabzon, according to the Turkish news outlet, Ahval.
Thousands of civilians took at streets in the Euphrates Shield (ES) areas in the northern Aleppo countryside on March 23 and 24 calling on Turkey to capture the city of Tal Rifaat and several villages around it from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Over the last few weeks the SAA has deployed a large force, including armored units, in Tal Rifaat and the villages around it. However, this force will likely withdraw once Turkey launches its offensive on Tal Rifaat, according to Syrian pro-government sources.
Several Syrian news outlets have speculated over the last few days that the fate of Tal Rifaat has been the subject of a long negotiation between Russia and Turkey. Erdogan’s announcement may mean that the two sides have reached an agreement regarding the city.