ALEPPO – Subsequent to the Kurdish advance against Islamist rebels in Syria’s northern Aleppo province, Turkey’s military has launched a fierce offensive on areas held by the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin and Azaz.
The Turkish army bombed with heavy artillery several YPG-held villages near Azaz and Afrin over the past few days, including Menagh, Miremin, Malkiyah, Meranaz, Tannab and Kashtaar. The Turkish operations coincided with mortar shelling by Syria’s wing of al-Qaeda, Nusra Front, on the Kurdish headquarters in the same areas.
Kurdish fighters of the YPG and allied rebels of Jaish al-Thuwar –both are members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)– seized control of the Menagh air base and a number of villages in the northern countryside of Aleppo subsequent to fierce clashes with Islamist rebel groups.
These developments have raised Turkey’s concerns about the growing Kurdish gains against Islamists on its southern border.
Turkey has for long supported Islamist rebel groups in northern Syria, including the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, in their war against Syrian regime’s forces and the Kurds. Local activists have also accused Turkey of facilitating the movement of militants and weapons for the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) across its borderline with Syria, especially near the Syrian border cities of Jarablus and Manbij –that have been for long used by ISIS jihadis as basic supply routes to facilitate their operations.
Speaking to ARA News, Kurdish politician and the Joint President of the Syrian Democratic Council, Ilham Ahmed, said: “The Turkish government has its own agenda in Syria, which basically clashes with the Kurdish war on terrorism.”
“Turkey was surprised with the U.S. support to the Kurdish forces in Syria. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish fighters in Syria as terrorists, while it sees in al-Qaeda and ISIS as allies,” she said.
“Turkey will always fight against any project in Syria that does not respond to its agenda. Erdogans’ government seeks to accomplish its own agenda and project in Syria at any cost,” Ahmed told ARA News. “The current project in northern Syria is the (Kurdish-led) Auto-Administration, which does not serve Turkey’s aspirations in Syria. Thus we expect Erdogan and his government in Turkey to continue fighting against any western support to the Auto-Administration and the Kurdish forces in Rojava (Syria’s Kurdish region).”
On Sunday, the Turkish bombardment in northern Syria caused the death of at least seven Kurdish YPG fighters and 23 civilians, beside the injury of dozens more in Afrin and Azaz.
On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area.” Davutoglu demanded the Kurdish forces to withdraw from the Menagh air base and evacuate all areas near Azaz. “We will retaliate against every step (by the YPG),” he said. “The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding areas and will not go close to it again.”
“The Turkish offensive against our forces in northern Syria is an apparent attempt by the government of Erdogan to support terrorist groups,” a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG told ARA News in Aleppo on Saturday midnight.
“Our message to the Turkish authorities is that we will continue our struggle until cleansing the region from those radical groups, and such strikes by the Turkish army won’t impede our progress,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby urged both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds to step back, stressing that they should focus instead “on tackling a common threat” of ISIS militants.
“We have urged Syrian Kurds and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory,” Kirby said in a statement. “We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires.”
The Turkish army has earlier launched more than 20 attacks on Kurdish positions in northern Syria, especially near Raqqa province where Kurds drove militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) from strategic border areas.
Federalism As Solution to Syrian Civil War
In the meantime, a group of Kurdish political parties on Saturday announced the formation of a joint umbrella under the banner “Kurdish National Alliance in Syria”.
The new Kurdish alliance has emphasized the importance of the Auto-Administration that has been running Syria’s Kurdish region, aka Rojava, for more than two years. The Kurdish National Alliance in Syria called on all parties in the region to support the Auto-Administration and its efforts in maintaining civil peace.
Speaking to ARA News in Amude, leading member of the new alliance, Nasrudding Ibrahim, said: “We believe that the Auto-Administration is very important to run this region amid the ongoing war and we should contribute to the improvement of the services this administration provides to the people.”
“Our alliance supports any effort to preserve civil peace in Rojava, and the Auto-Administration has worked hard over the last few years to neutralize those areas from the devastating Syrian war,” he said.
The Kurdish National Alliance in Syria has further considered federalism as the best option for Syria’s future, considering the establishment of a federal state in Syria would guarantee a peaceful solution to the ongoing civil war.
Mustafa Mashayikh, spokesman for the Kurdish National Alliance in Syria, told ARA News: “The social coexistence in Syria is at risk after five years of devastating civil war. Rojava has given a good example for the maintenance of civil peace, and we believe by establishing a federal state in Syria we could avoid any future clashes between the different social components as every group would be fairly represented in a federal system.”
Reporting by: Helin Saeed and Ahmed Shiwesh
Source: ARA News
For the latest news follow us on Twitter
Join our Weekly Newsletter