Turkish army ‘ready’ to shell YPG positions if it crosses Azaz-Jarablus line

Turkish army ‘ready’ to shell YPG positions if it crosses Azaz-Jarablus line

Uğur Ergan - ANKARA
Turkish army ‘ready’ to shell YPG positions if it crosses Azaz-Jarablus line

AFP photo

Ankara is closely following reports of a planned operation by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, held by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkish military officials have stated, expressing readiness to shell Syrian Kurdish forces in the event of a violation of “Turkey’s red line.”

Confirming recent moves in the region, military sources said Turkey would launch the “required response” from inside Turkish territory in the event of seizure of the so-called “Azaz-Jarablus line” by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militia forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), both of which are regarded as off-shoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In such a case, Turkish artillery units deployed near the border would launch intense fire at the PYD forces, the sources said on March 30.

PYD-YPG mobility in the field, which is apparently aimed at moving towards the Azaz-Jarablus line after seizing Manbij from ISIL, has been closely followed by aerial and ground intelligence units, military sources said. They noted that they did not yet have information indicating that the U.S.-led coalition forces would lend support to this planned operation from the air.

“The required response would be given from inside Turkey without entering Syrian territory,” the sources said.

In such a situation, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) plans to use the South Korean-designed T-155 Fırtına howitzers, in retaliatory shelling of its southern neighbor.

Turkey had also used Fırtına howitzers in mid-February, while shelling YPG targets in the Azaz town of northern Syria, after the group seized the Menagh air base north of Aleppo.

A leading U.K. daily newspaper recently reported that Washington has been pushing Turkey to close “the last border exit” from Syria used by foreign ISIL fighters to gain access to Europe for terrorist attacks.

“Western intelligence agencies believe that some of the terrorists involved in the bombings in Paris and Brussels travelled along a 60-mile highway that runs through the [ISIL]-controlled town of Manbij, south of the Syrian-Turkish border, before making their way to France and Belgium,” The Times reported on March 28.

“The American plan is to back up Kurdish fighters who would seize the road leading out of Manbij and take control of the border,” it said.