Turkey struck YPG in northern Syria 'to prevent march to al-Bab'

Turkey struck YPG in northern Syria 'to prevent march to al-Bab'

Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
Turkey struck YPG in northern Syria to prevent march to al-Bab

DHA Photo

Turkey killed up to 200 Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in air strikes in northern Syria on Oct. 19 in order to prevent the YPG fighters’ march to the town of al-Bab more to the south, security sources said.

Al-Bab is currently under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels, members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have also started to march toward the town, after the rebels seized the symbolically important town of Dabiq from ISIL on Oct. 16, with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu saying the next target was al-Bab. 

After determining that the U.S.-backed YPG forces, which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), started marching toward al-Bab, Turkey gave the YPG forces until 8 p.m. on Oct. 19 to withdraw to their former position, Turkish security forces said on condition of anonymity. 

But the YPG did not halt its march and one of the PKK leaders, Murat Karayılan, told the forces not to withdraw from their positions, according to walkie-talkie conversations.

Upon these developments, Turkish jets carried out 26 air strikes on 18 YPG targets in northern Syria, areas recently captured by YPG militants, claiming to kill between 160 and 200 militants on Oct. 19, the Turkish army said in a statement on Oct. 20.

Both the YPG and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say no more than 15 militants died in the attacks.

The jets targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three villages northeast of the city of Aleppo which the SDF had captured from ISIL, the observatory said late on Oct. 19, according to Reuters.

The U.S. has backed the Kurdish-led forces in their fight against ISIL, which has angered Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of PKK militants, with whom Turkey has been in an armed fight since the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, five shells were allegedly fired from the YPG-controlled Afrin region of Syria at the border province of Hatay on Oct. 20, triggering retaliatory fire against YPG militia targets in Afrin, the Turkish Armed Forces said.

Some military specialists said Turkey’s air strikes were conducted within Russia’s knowledge as the Syrian airspace is mostly controlled by Russia and that such strikes could not have been made without Russia’s knowledge.