BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:45 A.M.) – During the latest hours of Monday night and lasting into the earliest hours on Tuesday morning, Turkey-led forces – backed by fire support assets of the Turkish Army (i.e. artillery) – began a saturation bombardment of positions belonging to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Afrin region.
The bombardment took place along a twenty kilometre contact line running from Mount Bersaya (near the town of Qastal) in the north to the town of Malikiyah (near Menagh Airbase) in the south.
Targeted in-between these two ends of the contact line were SDF positions directly to the west of the strategic rebel-held town of Azaz and the SDF-held villages of Mernaz and Qestel Sindo (which are also near Azaz).
It appears that the Turkish Army has employed some of the heaviest artillery systems available in its inventory for this attack, including the T-155 Firtina heavy self-propelled howitzer and T-122 Sakarya multiple-launch rocket system (which can be heard and seen in the video below).
If Turkey-led forces really do plan to commit to a ground assault against SDF militants in Afrin, then, based on the disposition of Turkish artillery fire, the main offensive thrust will most likely be delivered out of Azaz in a southwestern direction towards the SDF-held Menagh Airbase.
The most immediate operational aim of the Turkey-led forces would be to expand rebel control along the Aleppo-Azaz highway, severing communications between the town of Afrin from the town of Tall Rif’at.
By attacking in a southwestern direction, Turkey-led forces would also be avoiding the Russian military base at Kafr Jana, which Russian security forces recently reinforced.