QAMISHLO, Syrian Kurdistan,— The Kurdish administration in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northeastern Syria called up civilians on Wednesday to defend the region against a feared Turkish assault, believed to be imminent.
“We announce three days of general mobilisation in northern and eastern Syria,” it said in a statement, urging all civilians to “head to the border with Turkey… to resist during this delicate historical moment”.
It also called on Kurds in Syria and abroad to protest against Ankara’s planned offensive.
Ankara said on Tuesday it would “shortly” begin an offensive into northern Syria, as it sent more armoured vehicles to the border.
Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, wrote in the Washington Post that Kurdish forces can either “defect” or Turkey will “have no choice but to stop them from disrupting our counter-Islamic State efforts”.
Turkey has threatened an offensive in Syrian Kurdistan against Kurdish militias and US forces on Monday pulled back from Turkish border areas, opening the way for an invasion President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said could come at any moment.
US President Donald Trump has blown hot and cold since a surprise announcement on Sunday that Washington was pulling back 50 to 100 “special operators” from Syria’s border with Turkey.
After appearing to give a green light to the Turkish invasion, he later threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.
He also insisted the United States had not abandoned its Kurdish allies by pulling forces out of the area.
On Wednesday, the Kurdish administration said it would hold its US ally and the whole international community responsible for any “humanitarian catastrophe” that unfolds in the territory under its control.
Kurdish forces took heavy losses in the US-backed campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria which they spearheaded.
11,000 Kurdish fighters had been killed in five years of war to eliminate the Islamic State “caliphate” that once covered an area the size of Great Britain in Syria and Iraq, Kurdish officials said.
The United States views the Kurdish YPG as a close ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.
The Kurdish PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, considered the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and U.S.
has provided them with arms. The YPG, which is the backbone of the SDF forces, has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.
The Kurdish forces expelled the Islamic State from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March 2019.
Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syrian Kurdistan.
In 2016, the Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an area some 100 km east of Afrin to stop the Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
In January 2018, Turkish military forces backed pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters to clear the YPG from its northwestern enclave of Afrin. In March 2018, the operation was completed with the capture of the Kurdish city of Afrin.
The flags of Turkey and Syrian rebel groups were raised in the Kurdish Afrin city and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.
Residents of the Kurdish city and Human right groups accuse Turkey and pro-Ankara mercenary fighters of ethnic cleansing, kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
Turkey fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds, according to analysts.
Syria’s Kurds have established a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Syria during the country’s eight-year war.
In 2013, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD — the political branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — has established three autonomous Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013.
On March 17, 2016, Kurdish and Arab authorities announced the creation of a “federal region” made up of those semi-autonomous regions in Syrian Kurdistan.
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