IS defections as Tel Abyad falls to YPG-FSA forces

Euphrates Volcano fighters reinforced their new positions in and around the border city of Tel Abyad and its nearby border crossing in A-Raqqa province on Tuesday after the combined Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces took control of the city the day before.

FSA-Kurdish forces are going to regroup in Tel Abyad before launching an assault on A-Raqqa city 80 kilometers to the south, Abu Ammar a-Raqqawi, a member of the media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) told Syria Direct Tuesday.

 Activist photo of an IS fighter turning himself in to Turkish authorities at the border. Photo courtesy of Wissam Mohammed.

In anticipation of a joint attack, the Islamic State erected barriers and dug trenches in A-Raqqa city after the IS retreat from Tel Abyad. These measures were “a preemptive step,” Raqqawi says, as “the joint forces need some time to prepare” for a future assault on A-Raqqa, the most important IS position in the province.

“I believed in and expected the demise of IS, but not this quickly,” local media activist Furat al-Wafa told Syria Direct on Tuesday, adding that control of the border crossing with Turkey less than a kilometer away from Tel Abyad could allow Volcano forces to bring in external aid.

Coinciding with Monday’s assault on Tel Abyad, a number of IS fighters allegedly defected, turning themselves over to Turkish authorities on the border on Monday amidst the fighting, in pictures published online.

Furat al-Wafa confirmed the event, adding that “those who turned themselves in were [already] thinking of defecting and found a good opportunity to do so.”

Ammar Hamou

Ammar Hammou is from Douma city in outer Damascus. He studied journalism at Damascus University and left Syria in 2011. Follow Ammar on Twitter: @Ammar_Hamou.

Mateo Nelson

Mateo Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Mateo holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.