MESOP NEWS “CEASEFIRE?” – THE ONGOING TURKISH WAR ON SYRIAN KURDS – Turkey, Islamist Groups Attack Kurdish Forces Despite Truce in Syria

By Helin Saeed and Ehmed Siwes – ARA News – 1-1-2017 – Aleppo — The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) reported on Friday that their positions were being attacked by Turkey’s military and Islamist rebels. The anti-YPG offensive targeted military installations across northern Aleppo Governorate.

“The Turkish Army and allied jihadist groups launched a renewed offensive in the Kurdish areas of Rojava, targeting YPG headquarters with heavy weapons and airstrikes,” the Protection Unit’s leadership said in a statement. The Turkish military shelled YPG security offices in the villages of Yabsa, Kerbnav and Seloula with heavy artillery. The artillery bombardment in eastern Kobane, coincided with Turkish air raids on the YPG-held village of Khane. The Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield Brigades also struck the Kurdish towns of Burj Sulaiman and Mernaz in Afrin’s Sherawa Subdistrict, with rockets and mortar shells.

Both civilian and military casualties were reported. The YPG said that it responded to the attack by bombing the Islamist’s strongholds in northern Aleppo.”Today’s attacks on Kobane and Afrin coincide with the Russian-Turkish brokered nationwide ceasefire in Syria,” reported Rawan Ebdullah, a local reporter in Kobane city.”Turkey used the ceasefire as an opportunity to strike Kurdish areas, claiming that the YPG is not part of the truce deal,” Ebdullah told ARA News. “Turkey and its allies have taken advantage of the war on the Islamic State to target the Kurds in Syria.”

Turkish War on Syrian Kurds

This is not the first time Turkey has targeted Syrian Kurds. According to military sources, the Turkish Army has launched more than 25 attacks on Kurdish positions in northern Syria.

Kobane was exposed to a similar attack on June 5, when Turkey’s military hit the Kurdish city with four shells, bombing residential houses. The Turkish army forces, stationed on the border with Syria’s Kurdish region, targeted the districts of Khikhire and Tarmik in southeastern Kobane. “Four artillery shells hit Kobane coming from the Turkish side of the border, causing destruction of several houses,” eyewitnesses told ARA News in Kobane. It was not immediately clear how many casualties fell in the Turkish bombardment. In August, video’s published on the internet showed pro-Turkish Euphrates Shield Brigade rebels saying they would march towards ‘Ayn al Islam’, the ISIS name for Kobane.On November 20, Turkish forces launched air raids and artillery strikes on positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) near Manbij city. The SDF sustained a handful of casualties and their local headquarters was damaged. Turkey’s military bombed the villages of Yilanli, Qurt Weran and Sheikh Nasr. Sharvan Darwish, an SDF spokesperson, said in a statement that at least four fighters were killed or injured.

On November 12, Turkey’s military shelled Kurdish communities in Afrin District, north of Aleppo city. Dilovan Mirkhan, a human rights activist, told ARA News that Turkey struck Afrin with dozens of artillery shells. “The Turkish Army –stationed on the border with Syria– bombed residential buildings in the Mosako town, in Afrin,” he said. At least eight Kurdish civilians were killed and 19 others wounded in the attack. Mirkhan said that the bombardment also leveled a large number of civilian homes. Also, on September 23, Syrian Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units accused Turkey-backed rebels of targeting their positions in the village of Merenaz in Afrin District. “Supported by Turkey, Syrian opposition factions launched an offensive on our units in the village of Merenaz, in Afrin,” the YPG General Command said.

On November 7, the Turkish Army forces shelled a People’s Protection Units (YPG) headquarters in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Governorate. Military sources reported that the Turkish Army also hit adjacent Kurdish fighting positions in Ain Diwar village. Scores of YPG fighters were wounded in the hour-long bombardment. “The Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party and its allies are trying to hit the Kurdish forces in Syria in support of Islamic State terrorists,” a Kurdish YPG officer told ARA News.

On October 19, Turkish military and allied rebel factions launched an offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s northern Aleppo Governorate. Turkish heavy artillery and mortar batteries shelled a line of YPG positions stretching from Tel Rifat to Hassadjek Mountain. A YPG officer told ARA News that at least 12 YPG fighters were killed and more than 20 others were injured.

On October 12, the Turkish army bombarded a YPG security office near Tel Abyad, east of Kobane. The Kurdish forces responded to the fire by launching artillery shells at Turkish Army installations near the Syrian border. It was not immediately clear whether the YPG bombardment caused any casualties.On September 28, at least nine civilians were killed and several others wounded in a Turkish artillery attack. The shelling occurred in Kahila, a Kurdish town near the Syrian border city of Tel Abyad.

The Kurdish YPG and their allies from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), captured the strategic city of Tel Abyad in June 2015. The conquest of Tel Abyad was disconcerting for Islamic State (ISIS) militants due to its location. Tel Abyad is only 90 km from Raqqa –the group’s de facto capital in Syria. Since ISIS was driven from Tel Abyad, Kurdish positions have been exposed on two fronts. The YPG has to guard against Turkey’s military on one hand, and ISIS on the other.Speaking to ARA News, YPG officer Habun Osman accused the Turkish government of supporting ISIS in their campaign to retake Tel Abyad. Osman believes that the Turkish government desires “to assist the terror group [and] export its oil to the black market via Turkey.”

“Before the YPG-SDF retook Tel Abyad from ISIS in early 2015, the terror group used to export its oil tankers through this border crossing to the black market,” Osman said. “When ISIS was in control here, Turkey never attacked the group’s positions. Now that Tel Abyad is under Kurdish control, the Turkish Army continues to attack the area.” Kurdish officials also accused Turkey of having gained millions of dollars from oil trade with ISIS in the past through Tal Abyad border crossing. “30 million dollars monthly,” YPG official spokesman Redur Xelil said in an earlier statement to ARA News –