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ISTANBUL – Although Turkey agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition against the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in the region, the Turkish army has focused most of its strikes on positions of the Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), ignoring military actions against ISIS targets.
Kurdish activists argue that Turkey has hit few ISIS targets to justify its alleged “anti-terror” efforts and shifted its military operations towards bombing Kurdish positions. Others went on saying that Turkey has facilitated ISIS-led attacks on Kurdish civilians in Suruc last July and Ankara last month.
“We are determined to continue the anti-terrorism operations inside and outside the country,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the early elections begin of November. “No break; we will keep on.”
Ankara ruled out any resumption of the peace process with the PKK, especially after a renewed surge of violence swept Turkey’s southeast in July.
Immediately after Erdogan’s speech, the PKK-linked Kurdistan Society Movement (KCK) ended a month-long unilateral ceasefire, igniting deadly clashes that led to the death of dozens in weeks.
Speaking to ARA News in Diyarbakir, Kurdish activist Milad Kurdoglu said that one of the Kurdish protesters was killed last week in clashes with the security forces in southeastern Turkey, as violence escalated days after a general election.
“A Kurdish young man was shot dead in the town of Silvan, while a 24-hour curfew was ordered by the army in three neighborhoods for days,” he added, pointing out “the clashes between security forces and the PKK’s loyalists continued last week”.
“AKP will continue taking advantage of ISIS existence in the political and military arena,” Kurdish journalist Shoresh Ozdemir told ARA News in Diyarbakir.
As Turkey announced joining the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, its fighter jets struck dozens of PKK positions in northern Iraq.
Since the start of its assault on both ISIS and PKK rebels on July 24, Turkey has fired about 100 times more strikes at the PKK than ISIS extremists, according to military sources.
Kurds argue that the Turkish government views ISIS as a tool rather than a threat, that’s why ISIS intensifies attacks on Kurdish targets inside and outside Syria.
The ISIS hardline group has advanced in many parts of the Kurdish region during the past two years. But the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) were able to expel the group from several key cities and towns of Syria’s northern areas where Kurds constitute a majority.
Ankara accuses Syrian Kurdish forces of the YPG of deep links with the PKK.
“The Kurdish people have been pummeled by AKP’s tool, namely ISIS, after Suruc’s and Ankara’s bombings,” Ozdemir continued, pointing out “this is to terrify people not electing the PKK-affiliated Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP).”
He said the Turkish authorities are using ISIS to intimidate the Kurdish population in Turkey.
In Syria, the Kurdish YPG forces announced last month a new Kurdish-Arab alliance under the banner the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) –which has, over the past three weeks, recaptured nearly 200 villages and towns from ISIS in northeastern Syria. The SDF operates in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.
Turkey is uncomfortable with gains by Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, saying they have deep links with the outlawed PKK –which is considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.
The Turkish government has repeatedly threatened to prevent any advance by the Kurdish forces near the Euphrates River in northern Syria, vowing it will not hesitate to strike these forces if they broke into this area.
Last week, leadership of the Kurdish YPG forces told ARA News that the Turkish army has bombed several Kurdish positions in the vicinity of the border city of Tel Abyad north of Raqqa, which has been recaptured by the Kurdish forces and allies in June after fierce battles with ISIS militants.
After Washington has indicated it could direct funding and weapons to Arab commanders on the ground who cooperate with the YPG forces, the Turkish government has been playing with the ISIS card, justifying strikes against PKK rebels, pushing on blocking the way before Syrian Kurds to link the tree separated cantons announced by the Kurdish Auto-Administration in northern Syria. Linking the three cantons of Jazeera (Hasakah province), Kobane and Afrin, would enable Kurds to create a semi-autonomous region, which raises Turkey’s concerns.
ISIS is less dangerous than PKK on Turkey because the latter is posing a serious threat on the Turkish national security, while the former is considered a card that can be played with by the Turkish authorities in regard with the conflict in Syria, according to analysts.
Turkey has been repeatedly calling for the establishment of a buffer-zone in northern Syria under the pretext of easing the refugee pressure on its territory, and this may be the reason behind Turkey’s ire on the Kurdish advance towards the Euphrates River. Ankara does not want this Kurdish force to unite the three Kurdish cantons in northern Syria as it may prevent the implementation of the alleged buffer-zone.
Syrian Kurdish forces have also supported the Peshmerga troops of Iraqi Kurdistan in the liberation of the Yezidi region of Shingal (Sinjar) from ISIS extremists earlier this month.
Turkey started airstrikes on PKK positions in July, killing more than 1100 Kurdish rebels. This coincided with a fierce response by the PKK whose attacks have killed at least 200 Turkish forces in the past few months.
The ongoing clashes have shattered a peace process that begun in 2012 to end a conflict that has killed at least 40,000 people over three decades.
Reporting by: Egid Yousef
Source: ARA News