Erdogan said that Turkey might begin ground operations in Syria after airstrikes.




Following four days of airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, Turkey has said that it is preparing a combat assault against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The strikes, which his defence minister said had “neutralised” 254 terrorists, were “just the beginning,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admonished.

A recent deadly bombing in Istanbul has been attributed by Turkey to Kurdish militant groups.

The YPG has denied involvement and claimed that 30 civilians and 11 fighters were killed in the strikes in northeastern Syria.

The Turkish attacks, according to the US defence department, “directly compromised the safety of US forces” fighting in Syria to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (IS)


According to BBC News the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed militia alliance dominated by the YPG, has accused Turkey of using the Istanbul bombing as a pretext to launch a long-planned cross-border offensive.

The Turkish military has launched three large-scale operations with allied Syrian rebel groups in northern Syria since 2016 and currently controls a swathe of territory running along more than 325km (200 miles) of the border.


The most recent operation, in 2019, saw Turkey capture the area between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain before Russia brokered a ceasefire.


Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group, insisting that it is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for decades. The PKK has also denied involvement in the Istanbul bombing, which killed six people in the city’s central Istiklal Avenue on 13 November.


In a speech to members of his AK Party in parliament on Thursday, President Erdogan said Turkey’s determination to secure its border with Syria and establish a “security corridor” was “stronger than ever before”.


“We are continuing the air operation and will come down hard on the terrorists from land at the most convenient time for us,” he warned.


SDF commander Mazloum Abdi told Al-Monitor that he believed his hometown of Kobane would be the “true target” of any ground assault and alleged that the Istanbul attack was “perpetrated by Syrian opposition groups operating under Turkey’s control”.


Mr Abdi also said Russia and the US were not doing enough to deter Turkey.


Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, has warned Turkey that a full-scale ground offensive could trigger an escalation of violence.


“We hope our arguments will be heard in Ankara and other ways of resolving the problem will be found,” Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev said on Wednesday following talks in Kazakhstan.


The US, a Nato ally of Turkey, warned about the impact any escalation could have on the goal of fighting Islamic State. The US relied on the YPG and other militias in the SDF to defeat IS in eastern Syria.


The SDF said on Wednesday that five Turkish air strikes had targeted Kurdish security forces guarding the al-Hol detention camp, where the relatives of suspected IS militants are being held.

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