Turkey launches air raids against Kurdish militants in Syria, Iraq

1. Turkey 1
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (center) chairs a military operation in Iraq and Syria with members of the Turkish Armed Forces in Ankara. (Photo: Turkish Ministry of Defense/AFP)
ISTANBUL, Turkey Turkey announced on Sunday it had carried out air strikes against the bases of outlawed Kurdish militants across northern Syria and Iraq, which it said were being used to launch “terrorist” attacks on Turkish soil.اضافة اعلان

The overnight raids in northern and northeastern Syria, primarily against positions held by Syrian Kurdish forces, killed at least 31 people, British-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The offensive, codenamed Operation Claw-Sword, comes a week after a blast in central Istanbul killed six people and wounded 81.

Turkey blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency there for decades and is designated a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The PKK has denied involvement in the Istanbul explosion.

“Air Operation Claw-Sword was successfully carried out, within the scope of our strategy to eradicate terrorism at its source and eliminate terror attacks against our people and security forces from northern Iraq and Syria,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

The strikes targeted PKK bases in northern Iraq’s mountainous regions of Kandil, Asos, and Hakurk, as well as bases of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), in Ayn Al-Arab (called Kobane in Kurdish), Tal Rifaat, Jazira, and Derik regions in Syria, the ministry said.

Ankara considers the YPG as a PKK-affiliated terror group.

Eighty-nine targets including shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots, so-called headquarters, and training camps belonging to the militants “were destroyed”, the ministry said, adding “many terrorists were neutralized”, including their leaders.

A general view of “Free Woman” square in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, on November 20, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

“All our planes safely returned to their bases after the operation,” it added.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was seen in a video image briefing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gave the order for the latest operation, which the Syrian government said killed a number of its soldiers.

The Istanbul bombing was the deadliest in five years and evoked bitter memories of a wave of nationwide attacks from 2015 to 2017 that were attributed mostly to Kurdish militants or Daesh.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility.

Rocket attack
A rocket fired from Syria left three people wounded on the Turkish border, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

One Turkish soldier and two special forces police officers were injured after the rocket fired by Kurdish militia forces fell on the Oncupinar border gate area near the Syrian border, said the agency.

After the Istanbul explosion, Turkish authorities arrested more than a dozen people, including chief suspect Alham Albashir — a Syrian woman who is said to have been working for Kurdish militants. 

Bulgaria has also detained five people accused of having helped one of the suspects.

“The hour of reckoning has come,” the Turkish defense ministry tweeted early on Sunday, along with a photo of a plane taking off for a night operation.

Nearly 25 air strikes hit the provinces of Raqa, Hassakeh, and Aleppo, killing 18 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), 12 members of Syria’s military and one journalist, according to the Syrian observatory.

Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria meanwhile gave a toll of 29 dead — including 11 civilians, 15 fighters aligned with Syria’s military, two silo guards and one Kurdish fighter.

Turkey’s military has in the past denied claims that its strikes target civilians.

In its first comment on the Turkish strikes, the Syrian defense ministry said “a number of soldiers” were killed due to “Turkish aggressions in northern Aleppo and Hassakeh provinces at dawn”.

Complex ties with US
Turkey’s latest military push could create problems for Ankara’s complex relations with its Western allies — particularly the US, which has relied mostly on Syrian Kurdish militia forces in its fight against Daesh extremists.

Turkey has often accused Washington of supplying Kurdish forces with weapons.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu rejected the US’ message of condolences after the Istanbul attack, even though Erdogan accepted them during a meeting on Tuesday with President Joe Biden on the margins of the G20 summit in Indonesia. 

Soylu has said Ankara believes the order for the Istanbul attack was given from Kobane, controlled by Syrian Kurdish militia forces, which have also denied any role.

Kobane, a Kurdish-majority town near the Turkish border, was captured by Daesh in late 2014 before Syrian Kurdish forces drove them out early the following year.

The US-backed SDF said the Turkish attacks would “not go unanswered”, in a statement.

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