MESOP FLASH: Turkish Warplanes Bomb Kurdish Militia for 1st Time / 200 Kurdish fighters dead

by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Smoke rises from claimed Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish positions in northern Syria on Wednesday

The Turkish military acknowledged early Thursday that jets carried out 26 airstrikes on 18 positions of the YPG, the military branch of the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD), in northern Aleppo Province. It said 160 to 200 fighters were killed.

The attacks concentrated on villages captured earlier this year by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from the Islamic State, such as al-Hasiya, Um al-Qura, and Um Hosh.The Turkish Government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that the PYD and YPG are linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has battled Ankara for more than 30 years.As the Kurdish-led SDF pushed back the Islamic State last autumn in northeast Syria, Turkey declared a “red line” at the Euphrates River. However, the SDF crossed the river in December and moved west into Aleppo Province. The offensive culminated in the capture of the Islamic State’s main position in the province, the city of Manbij, in early August.

A few weeks later, Turkey intervened alongside rebels in northern Syria, carrying out airstrikes and putting in tanks and special forces. The offensive quickly took a 55-km (34-mile) strip along the Turkish-Syrian border from ISIS, and it also moved south into areas taken by the SDF before political pressure — notably from the US — checked the advance. The continuing retreat of the Islamic State has opened up further possibilities of conflict, with both the Turkish-rebel offensive and the SDF considering an assault on another key ISIS position, the town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo. Rebels also promised on Tuesday that they will begin reclaiming areas lost to the YPG in northwest Syria in early 2016. They said they would attack the town of Tel Rifaat within 48 hours. Tel Rifaat is near Azaz, a key town near the Turkish-Syrian border for the movement of rebels and supplies.