Turkish military strikes YPG and ISIL targets in Syria

Published by Al Jazeera
On 23 August 2016 saa 02:42
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Turkish army shells ISIL targets in Syria’s Jarablus and Kurdish YPG positions north of Manbij.

Turkey has launched separate artillery strikes on Kurdish and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in northern Syria.

The Turkish army shelled on Monday ISIL targets near the border town of Jarablus, as well as Kurdish YPG positions north of the nearby city of Manbij.

The YPG targets were hit 20 times, while the cross-border attack on ISIL was still ongoing, a Turkish official told the Reuters news agency.

The attacks inside Syria followed Ankara’s vow to push ISIL, also known as ISIS, from its border with Syria.

Ankara has also spoken out against the advance of US-backed Syrian-Kurdish YPG fighters, seeing them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s.

The YPG, or the People’s Protection Units, currently controls swaths of territory along the northeastern border with Turkey - from the towns of Hasaka to Afrin - while its political wing, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), claims an autonomous region now called Rojava.

The Kurdish group makes up a significant portion of the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish and Arab alliance fighting ISIL in Syria. The US and EU considers the YPG as one of their most effective allies in the fight against ISIL.

Earlier this month, YPG forces backed by air raids from a US-led anti-ISIL coalition, ousted ISIL fighters from Manbij.

But Turkey views the Kurdish presence in northern Syria as an unacceptable "red line" and wants the Free Syrian Army (FSA), another opposition group, to take over areas once controlled by ISIL in the border regions.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Gaziantep, on the Turkish side of Syria-Turkey border, said advances by the Kurds "raised concerns within the political and military establishment within Turkey".

"They are concerned about the growing territorial gains of Kurdish factions."
On Sunday, it was reported that the FSA was planning to attack the ISIL-controlled region of Jarablus from inside Turkey to prevent any Kurdish efforts to control the area.

A rebel official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that hundreds of FSA and opposition fighters were expected to launch an assault on Jarablus from inside Turkey in the next few days.

On Monday, a Turkish official also told Reuters that "the fundamental aim in the latest operation [of the strikes on Jarablus and Manbij] is to open a corridor for moderate rebels".

Al Jazeera’s Ahelbarra said the FSA has not been as successful as the YPG forces in taking over territory from ISIL up to now, but this may soon change.

"Particularly in Jarablus and Manbij they [FSA fighters] were outgunned and out-numbered by Kurdish factions," he said.

"But it seems Turkey is now willing to put an end to the growing influence of Kurdish factions in Syria and at least have their own allies, particularly the FSA, take over" he said.

"It remains to be seen whether this is going to be a period of an aggressive Turkish role in northern Syria or just going to pave the way for the FSA to be able to advance."

Turkey also shelled YPG positions in northern Syria in February, demanding that the group withdrew from areas it had captured.

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Turkey views the Kurdish presence in northern Syria as an unacceptable "red line"