Kurdish fighters of the YPG in Afrin, northwest Syria. Photo: ARA News
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URFA – Since the withdrawal of the Syrian regime’s forces from major parts of the Kurdish areas in July 2012, Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have seized territories in northern Syrian to fill in the security vacuum.
Forces loyal to the Assad regime only hold some security bases and administrative offices in the Syrian Kurdish region.
Kurds have established three autonomous “cantons” in northern Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011. They deny aiming to establish their own “nation state”.
The YPG forces helped establish an auto-administration in the Kurdish areas near the border with Turkey. This has raised Turkey’s ire against these forces ــwhich were able last June to expel radicals of the Islamic State group (ISIS) from the key city of Tel Abyad (Gire Spi), connecting the YPG-held canton of al-Jazeera (Hasakah) with Kobane and might reach the third Kurdish area of Afrin.
In June, the YPG forces ــbacked by U.S.-led airstrikesــ regained control of the key city of Tel Abyad near the Turkish border. Two weeks ago, a local council in the city declared it part of the Auto-Administration established by the Kurds in northern Syria.
On Sunday, the Turkish military targeted locations of the YPG in the western countryside of Tel Abyad, coinciding with the outbreak of clashes between the Kurdish YPG fighters and ISIS jihadists in the southern countryside of Sirrin town near Kobane.
The YPG’s Media Centre released Monday a statement, of which ARA News received a copy, saying: “The Turkish attacks against our units which started on October 24 are still ongoing on the borderline of Kobane canton.”
“The Turkish army renewed Monday afternoon heavy attacks on the YPG-held western countryside of Tel Abyad with A4 weapons,” the YPG’s leadership said.
“On Sunday, the Turkish army targeted a YPG base west of Tel Abyad, using heavy weapons type A4, from 18:30 to 02:00 O’clock,” the YPG’s statement read, without giving further information.
Earlier in October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Kurdish forces of trying to grab control of northern Syria, saying “Ankara would not allow this to happen.”
Ankara accuses the Democratic Union Party (PYD) –largest Syrian Kurdish party– of deep links with the outlawed rebel group of the PKK in Turkey.
Separately, the YPG’s leadership pointed out that their units (YPG) carried out on the first of November a military operation against ISIS militants south of Sirrin town near Kobane.
“We were able to thwart an attack prepared by the terror group and kill several terrorist,” the statement read.
Speaking to ARA News in Sirrin, YPG fighter Habun Osman said that over the past two weeks, tension continued between the Kurdish forces and ISIS in the vicinity of Sirrin town, adding “ISIS has received reinforcements and carried out hit and run attacks on our centers.”
He added that ISIS usually sends small groups of gunmen to carry out suicide attacks “in a bid to cause losses in our ranks and disrupt our fighters”.
Last week, Turkish military forces struck locations of the Kurdish forces of the YPG in Syria, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a press statement.
“It seems that the Turkish state is trying to provoke our units (YPG) to respond in a bid to justify its military intervention in our region,” a YPG official told ARA News in Tel Abyad.
“The Turkish authorities are highly concerned about our continuous progress against ISIS terrorists, and they are trying to stop us under the pretext that we are merely fighting for the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish state on their border.”
Also in October, Syria’s Kurdish forces of the YPG and several Arab rebel groups have formed a new alliance under the banner “Syrian Democratic Forces” to combat ISIS extremists.
Washington said earlier that it could provide military support to Arab rebel commanders in northern Syria in case they cooperate with the YPG forces.
The Kurdish YPG has gained Washington’s trust after expelling ISIS from major cities and towns in northern Syria.
Reporting by: Jan Nasro and Egid Ibrahim
Source: ARA News