Syrian state media said on Monday that Syrian troops entered Tel Tamer, a town on the strategically important M4 highway that runs east to west along the border with Turkey.
SANA said government forces would “confront the Turkish aggression,” without giving further details. Photos posted by SANA showed several vehicles and a small number of troops.
Tel Tamer is a predominantly Assyrian Christian town that was once held by ISIS before it was retaken by Kurdish-led forces. Many Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million, left for Europe over the past 20 years, with the flight gathering speed since the country’s conflict began in March 2011.
Later on Monday, SANA reported government forces have entered the northern town of Tabqa and its air base that carries the same name, as well as several other villages on the southern parts of Raqqa province, previously an ISIS stronghold.
Tabqa is on the road to the city of Raqqa, which was ISIS’ de facto capital, until it lost both in 2017.
A top Syrian Kurdish official said a “preliminary military” deal with Damascus had been reached for government forces to enter border areas from the town of Manbij in the west to Derik, 400 km (250 miles) away in the northeast.
Badran Jia Kurd said the deal is limited to the army’s deployment along the border and the two sides will discuss political issues later. The Kurds have set up an autonomous administration in territory they control, while Assad aims to impose the rule of his government across all Syrian territory.
The army deployment would help the SDF in countering the Turkish offensive and “liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels. It would allow the recapture of other Syrian cities captured by the Turkish army such as Afrin.