Turkish army officers have assumed direct command of the first two Syrian rebel brigades fighting Bashar Assad’s government forces, according toDEBKAfile’s exclusive sources. This step has sent military tensions rocketing on Israel’s northern borders with Syria and Lebanon in case of a backlash.
The rebel North Liberators Brigade in the Idlib region of northern Syria and the Tawhid Brigade fighting in the Al-Bab area northeast of Aleppo are now taking their operational orders from Turkish officers, who exercise their authority from headquarters outside Syria in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep. Nonetheless, Turkey is considered to have stepped directly into the Syrian conflict marking the onset of foreign intervention.
Western and Arab military circles in the Middle East expect Turkey to extend its command to additional rebel units – not all of them part of the Free Syrian Army.
This first step has already caused waves.
1. The consequences of Turkish military action in Syria were urgently aired with CIA Director David Petraeus when he arrived in Ankara Monday, Sept. 3, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal. After hearing how and when Ankara proposed to expand its role in the Syrian conflict, Petraeus discussed with Turkish military and intelligence chiefs the likely Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah responses.
He then flew to Israel to continue the discussion there.
2. By then, US, Turkish and Israeli intelligence watchers were reporting unusual military movements in Syria and on Hizballah turf in southern Lebanon – suspected of being preparations for a blowback from the Turkish intervention in Syria.
3. The IDF countered by placing its units guarding the Syrian and Lebanese borders on a state of alert. Wednesday, Sept. 5, an Iron Dome battery was installed in Gush Dan to head off a potential Hizballah missile barrage on central Israel and its hub, Tel Aviv.
4. Later that day, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan commented: “The regime in Syria has now become a terrorist state.”
Only a few of Erdogan’s listeners understood he was laying international legal grounding for expanding Turkish military intervention in Syria.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Thursday, Sept. 6, military temperatures remained high-to-feverish along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Israel, and along Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel.