MESOP TODAY : Syria Kurds worried by Turkey activity along Afrin border

Turkey is reportedly restoring a railway leading into a Kurdish region of northwest Syria that has been out of service since 2012.  NOWMEDIA  – 8 Oct 2016 – BEIRUT – A media outlet affiliated with the ruling Kurdish authorities in northern Syria has raised concerns over recent Turkish military activity across the border from a de-facto autonomous Kurdish region in the northwest of the war-torn country.

In an article entitled “Unprecedented Turkish military movements along Afrin’s border,” the ANHA news agency claimed Thursday that Ankara was undertaking unusual maintenance work on a railway leading into Syria that has been out of service since 2012.

Local sources in the Afrin Canton told ANHA that the Turkish military for the pays three days has been working to “restore” the railroad outside the Syrian border village of Meidan Ekbis, which was once one of the stops along the train routes that stretched from Istanbul to Damascus as well as Baghdad.Meanwhile, a source in Turkey said that the Turkish army “conducted full maintenance on the railway” running from the town of Islahiye,  adding that a “number of concrete panels” in a wall running across the railroad tracks were removed “at the border near the village of Meidan Ekbis.”ANHA reported that the move “raised suspicions among observers and residents” of northern Afrin, who fear that Turkey intends to “use the railway for logistical purposes in the occupation of the region.”

On Wednesday night, Bas News—a media outlet affiliated with the Kurdish Democratic Party in northern Iraq—reported that Turkey deployed additional military units to Islahiye, which lies a little over 20 kilometers from the border village of Meidan Ekbis.“These reinforcements included tanks, armored personnel carriers as well as soldiers,” activists in Afrin told Bas News.ANHA news, for its part, claimed that Turkey deployed additional troops across the border from Meidan Ekbis at approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday, specifying that three tanks were moved near the Afrin Canton.

Tension has risen along the border after Turkey in late August launched Operation Euphrates Shield, a joint venture with Syrian rebels aimed at not only pushing back ISIS from the border in northeast Aleppo, but as well as Syrian Kurdish troops.

On September 7, Turkish troops bombarded Kurdish troops in the Afrin village of Sorke outside the border town of Rajo, killing five Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters as well as one member of the Asayesh internal security force. Afterward, the Executive Council of the Afrin Canton warned Ankara that it would “respond appropriately [to Turkey] thanks to the presence of YPG units and Asayesh forces in case such attacks are repeated.”

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material.