NATO member Turkey says it has begun a massive assault on US-backed Kurdish forces on the other side of the border with Syria – potentially putting it in direct conflict with its Nato ally, the United States.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told journalists at a media roundtable on Sunday morning that Turkish ground forces have entered Afrin. The ground operations began at 11:06 a.m. (local time), according to Turkish broadcaster 24TV, which reported on the meeting in Istanbul. “Our troops have gone past Kilis’s Gulbaba,” PM having said.
A reporter inside Afrin contributing to AFP said residents quickly disappeared from the town’s streets when the Turkish bombardment began at around 4:30 pm local time (1430 GMT). YPG military vehicles took their place instead. Local authorities enforced a curfew on Saturday, banning civilians from gathering in public and shuttering businesses and schools.
“While the United States supports Turkey’s concern about a safe and secure Turkish-Syrian border, military operations by Turkey into northeast Syria will not advance regional stability,” the State Department said Friday.
“Syria’s Assad slams Turkey offensive as ‘support for terrorism’,” AFP tweeted on Sunday.
Not only Kurds. Afrin region is populated also by yazidi and Christian communities. Yazidi community consists of 20.000 people living in 25 villages. They accuse Turkey to have attacked the Yazidi’s in Syria and Iraq wherever they could. Now they ask Russia to stop possible Turkish offensive.
A YPG statement echoed this stance, saying the Kurdish fighters had “no choice” but to fight back against Turkey’s “barbaric aggression”.