- Turkey launched a massive air and ground campaign against US-backed Kurds in Syria on Saturday.
- The Kurdish YPG have released statements asking Turkey to “halt its unjustified threats.”
Turkey launched a massive air and ground campaign against US-backed Kurds in Syria’s Afrin province on Saturday, which its military has code-named operation “Olive Branch,” according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish observation posts and many other targets, Anadolu reported, while its ground forces launched at least 15 rounds of artillery.
The YPG released statements on Saturday saying they “harbor no hostile intent towards Turkey,” and asked Ankara to “halt its unjustified threats.” The YPG added that multiple civilians and YPG fighters have already been killed.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) January 20, 2018
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Sporadic cross-border artillery exchanges between the two sides have been ongoing at least since August, but increased on Thursday after the US announced it would maintain and train a 30,000-strong Kurdish-dominated force in northern and eastern Syria to stabilize the regions against ISIS.
The YPG’s growing strength across a swath of northern Syria has alarmed Ankara, which fears the creation of an independent Kurdish state on its southern border.
But the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces – of which the YPG is a major component – accused Turkey on Saturday of using cross-border shelling as a false pretext to launch an offensive in Syria.
Differences over Syria policy have further complicated Turkey’s already difficult relationship with the US, a NATO member. Washington has backed the YPG, viewing it as an effective partner in the fight against ISIS.
A US State Department official on Friday said military intervention by Turkey in Syria would undermine regional stability and would not help protect Turkey’s border security.
Instead, the US called on Turkey to focus on the fight against ISIS. Ankara accuses Washington of using one terrorist group to fight another in Syria.