Kurds take airport from Syrian rebels after Russia air strikes

Kurdish fighters backed by Russian bombing raids have driven Syrian rebels from a former military air base near the border with Turkey, a group that monitors the war said on Thursday.

Rebel groups have been distracted by a major offensive in the area by the Syrian army and its Russian and other allies, allowing the Kurds to capture the base and expand their foothold in the north.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war through a network of sources on the ground, reported heavy fighting between Kurds and Syrian rebels around Menagh air base, a former Syrian air force facility that had fallen into rebel hands.

Russian warplanes staged at least 30 raids against rebels at the base before the Kurdish fighters were able to seize it.

One rebel commander, Zekeriya Karsli from the Levant Front, said: "The fall of Menagh airport has made the situation on the ground pretty grim."

Kurds in northern Syria have established a degree of autonomy since the start of the war in some areas bordering Turkey, which is struggling to end a three-decade insurgency on its own territory by Kurdish militants who want more self-rule.

Both Syrian and Turkish Kurds, however, stop short of a declared bid for independent statehood, unlike Iraqi Kurdistan, which is already an autonomous region and is moving toward a referendum to declare full independence from Baghdad.

The Russians are happy to help the Kurds in this instance as it means further problems for the Syrian rebels they are trying to destroy.
This another example of the three-dimensional chess taking place in Syria among the various factions.  I suspect another aspect of the Russian thinking is how much this will be a thumb in the eye of Turkey which is rigidly opposed to the Kurds in the region.


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