Turkey aims to create 30km ‘secure zone’ in Syria, says PM

afrin enclave north syriaTurkish troops and Syrian opposition forces attacked a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria on Sunday in their bid to drive a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia from the region.

 Turkish officials said the troops entered the enclave of Afrin a day after dozens of Turkish jets and Turkish artillery units at the border pounded Syrian Kurdish targets as part of an offensive, codenamed Olive Branch, that came on the heels of sharp threats from Turkey’s leaders.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terror organization and a security threat because of its affiliation to Kurdish rebels fighting in southeastern Turkey.

The group controls Afrin, in Syria‘s northwestern corner, as well as a swath of territory along Turkey’s border. The YPG also forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S. ally against the Islamic State group in Syria.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali denied that Turkish troops had entered Afrin, saying Kurdish forces had been repelling attacks since Saturday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Kurdish militia and Turkish forces have clashed on the northern and western edges of Afrin, but that Turkish troops have failed to advance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to expand the operation to other Kurdish regions. Turkish media reports have quoted Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as telling a group of journalists on Sunday that Turkey aims to create a 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep “secure zone” in Afrin.

Earlier Sunday, four rockets fired from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Kilis, prompting Turkish artillery to return fire, Gov. Mehmet Tekinarslan said. The rockets hit two offices and an office building, and slightly wounded one person.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the Turkish-backed fighters had penetrated 5 kilometers (3 miles) into Afrin.

Associated Press journalists on the border saw a convoy of trucks, believed to belong to Syrian opposition fighters, carrying pick-up trucks mounted with arms. Artillery shelling could be heard in the distance.

Turkey has prepared around 10,000 Syrian fighters to storm Afrin, according Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

A Syrian commander speaking to the AP by phone from northern Syria said there were thousands of fighters positioned in Azaz, at the frontier with the Kurdish enclave, awaiting orders. Another commander said hundreds more were stationed in Atmeh, south of Afrin. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Turkish leaders were infuriated by an announcement by the U.S. military this week that it was going to create a 30,000-strong border force with the Kurdish fighters to secure northern Syria. Days later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the U.S. would maintain a military presence with the Kurds for the foreseeable future.

(AP)

  • Niemals

    700 000 civilians remain in Afrin the so called 30km ‘secure zone’….

    Turkey’s offensive represents yet another frontline in the already hard-hitting Syria.
    This weekend, a total of 18 civilians were killed, according to the British-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory (SOHR).

    Kurdish rebels that are fighting against the Turkish military in southeastern Turkey, are affiliated with the YPG that Erdogan considers as a terror organization and a security threat.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ada525021c8226ea6ab641d991df3559cdf3ec37b9e2a27ce93a73df9f69a46f.jpg
    They are indeed a security threat to Erdogan – he don’t want anyone that can harm his dictatorship rule. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b9ecdffbe97763047a19f4ffc27db0f34211b1cbcd9f57bb316027d344d8aa9.jpg

  • Niemals

    Without the Syrian Kurds, the terrorist group IS probably still controlled Northern Syria.
    But now, Turkish airattack and artillery attack the Kurds in northwestern Syria, the same group who drove away the dreaded terrorists.
    Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instead calls the Kurdish militias YPG, the target of the massive invasion, for terrorists.

    Erdog’s invasion is made with a glimpse of the forthcoming presidential election in Turkey. He hopes that the invasion will be a voice winner in Turkish opinion. YPG denies any military cooperation with the PKK in Turkey. But although the leadership of the two Kurdish armed groups is largely the same, it is unclear whether YPG’s control of northern Syria really represents a threat to Turkey.

    What is clear, however, is that Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria hardly facilitates the unsuccessful efforts to launch genuine peace talks between the parties so far. But instead of a long-awaited end of a seven-year war with hundreds of thousands of dead and twelve million refugees, the war now appears to be entering a new and unpredictable phase without a clear end.

  • Niemals

    Dozens of arrests in Turkey after military offensive
    Because they reportedly spread “terrorist propaganda” on social networks, the Turkish police seized several people – including two employees of the German daily newspaper “taz.”
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0ac7654eda1a2f6f14732970861eb5c78045f524b49ca8d2baa20d651825e2d.jpg According to lawyer Ceren Şimşek, our author Hayri Demir and Sibel Hürtaş were arrested in Ankara by the anti-terrorist unit. Allegation: Terror propaganda and sedition. Demir confiscated as “evidence” texts, including: an interview with the co-chair of the HDP

    As a result of the Turkish military offensive in Syria, Kurdish-Turkish conflict reaches Germany.
    http://www.spiegel.de/video/hannover-kurdischen-proteste-gegen-offensive-der-tuerkei-video-99013020.html