Photo: Turkish Armed forces
ISTANBUL,— Turkish forces shelled Syrian Kurdish YPG militia positions in Syrian Kurdistan, the northern Syrian region, of Tel Rifaat for a third consecutive day, Turkish state media reported on Friday.
Tel Rifaat is located some 20 km east of the Kurdish city of Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and the pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters from the so called Free Syrian Army (FSA) since an operation in 2018 aimed at driving out the YPG militia.
The YPG still controls the small region of Tel Rifaat, wedged between an area under Turkish control to the north and areas controlled by the Syrian government and anti-Syrian government rebels to the south.
Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist organisation and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
The YPG denies the charge and says Turkey is the aggressor.
Turkish howitzers fired five shots against YPG positions in Tel Rifaat on Wednesday, followed by 12 on Thursday and more than 20 on Friday, according state-owned Anadolu news agency.
The reports did not mention any casualties.
The Defence Ministry said on Thursday its forces had responded to YPG harassment fire from Tel Rifaat on Turkish elements operating in the Afrin region.
Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria.
The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party 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.
Since December 2018, Ankara has been threatening to launch a new offensive against the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
In 2013, the 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.
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.
Analysts believe that Turkey is using the YPG as a pretext to invade Syrian Kurdistan and to undermine the Kurdish autonomous regions.
Ankara has previously launched two operations in Syrian Kurdistan.
On August 24, 2016 Turkish troops entered the Syrian territory in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after IS jihadists left the city without resistance.
Most of Turkish operations were focused only against the Kurdish forces.
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.
Then 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 fighters of kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and torture.
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