While Turkey resumes shelling Afrin, Kurdish commander vows to expel Turkey from Syria

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Turkish army forces (R), and Kurdish YPG-SDF fighters (L). Photo: Jinda Ibrahim/ARA News

ARA News

The Turkish army and its Syrian allies have resumed shelling the Kurdish communities in Rajo and Afrin District. In addition, the Turkish military has brought up tanks, deploying them near the village of Qara Baba in Aleppo’s countryside.

Locals also observed drones and reconnaissance flights buzzing overhead. The Commander of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said that in the coming fighting, his forces would liberate Azaz and Jarabulus from Turkey’s proxies.

Turkish officials have indicated that they want to conquer Afrin city (known in Kurdish as Efrîn) and have also signaled a willingness to work with Russia in Idlib Governorate.

YPG Commander Sipan Hemo said in response to the Turkish build-up that Ankara wants to occupy a corridor spanning Jarabulus, Manbij and Idlib.

“They don’t even hide it, they openly say that they want an area allied to them from Jarablus and Manbij to Idlib,” Hemo said in an interview with Yeni Özgür Politika. “Aleppo was actually a part of their plans before, but after they struck a deal with Russia, they let go of Aleppo. Now they want a corridor from Sheba [northern Aleppo] to Idlib.”

“We expect attacks in the coming days on Sheba and Efrîn from both Ezaz [Azaz] and Idlib,” Commander Hemo continued. “Sometimes they attack, and we retaliate immediately. All their attacks have been voided. There are no changes in territorial control up to this date.”

The YPG commander said that Russian interests are threatened by the increasingly overt alliance between Washington and the Syrian Kurds. In particular, Hemo cited the Coalition’s recent success in the battle for Raqqa.

“Our goal in this region is clear and transparent. We don’t accept the Turkish state’s presence in the region in any form,” he explained. “[Turkey] may have gained some opportunities and built some international alliances. I want to stress this: We don’t recognize these alliances either. The liberation of Azaz-Jarablus will always be one of our goals and our struggle to this end will continue.”

“Since the beginning, the Turkish state has taken an illegitimate position towards Rojava and Syria, and their presence goes against the interests of the peoples here,” Hemo concluded.

Timur Akhmetov, a Turkey expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told ARA News that Russia will not fully support Turkish ambitions in Afrin. “I think that the Turkish shelling of Afrin will be limited to harassing measures intended to shackle the [Kurdish] forces to the canton,” he said.

“The shelling and the news of an allegedly approaching military intrusion may be part of either preparations for an actual military campaign in Idlib (in coordination with Russia) or Turkish diplomatic efforts aiming to retaliate against the US.”

“But I don’t think Russia will be ready to give a freeway to Turkey through the Afrin canton: Syrian Kurds proved to be a perfect leverage against Turkish ambitions in Syria, so why should Russia give up on the Kurds,” Akhmetov concluded.

The US-led coalition has expressed its own concerns about the Turkey’s designs on Afrin. Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon told reporters on Thursday, that the US was “concerned about anything that distracts or takes away from the focus that we are on right now, and that is Raqqa.”

“So, if the SDF that are currently in the fight in Raqqa have to, you know, train their attention and their focus elsewhere [then] they’re not fighting ISIS.” Col Dillon continued. “So we have a concern if that happens. And it doesn’t have to happen from, you know.”

However, unlike Russia, the US does not have a presence in Afrin. “Our focus is on liberating Raqqa right now. Our forces aren’t operating in the area that you’re talking about,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday.

Sharvan Darwish, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), called on Thursday for the world to stop Turkey’s aggression. “For years, we’ve been fighting the terrorists with our lives and blood!” he said. “[The] world should take a stand against Turkish occupying aggression around Afrin.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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