ALEPPO – Turkey’s army troops shelled positions for the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, military sources reported on Saturday.
The bombardment by the Turkish military was aimed at impeding the Kurdish progress against Islamist rebels in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.
This comes after the Kurdish YPG forces drove Syrian Islamist rebels from a former military airport south of Azaz town in Aleppo province, near the Turkish border.
Kurdish fighters of the YPG and allied rebels of Jaish al-Thuwar –both are members of the western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)– seized control of the Menagh air base subsequent to fierce clashes with Islamist rebel groups.
“The Turkish offensive against our forces in northern Syria is an apparent attempt by the government of Erdogan to support terrorist groups,” a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG told ARA News in Aleppo on Saturday midnight.
It was not immediately clear how many fighters were killed in the Turkish offensive.
“Our message to the Turkish authorities is that we will continue our struggle until cleansing the region from those radical groups, and such strikes by the Turkish army won’t impede our progress,” he said.
In the meantime, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area.”
U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby urged both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds to step back, stressing that they should focus instead “on tackling a common threat” of ISIS militants.
“We have urged Syrian Kurds and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory,” Kirby said in a statement. “We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires.”
Davutoglu, who considered the Syrian Kurds as a threat to the Turkish state, demanded the Kurdish forces to withdraw from the Menagh air base and evacuate all areas near Azaz.
“We will retaliate against every step (by the YPG),” he said. “The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding areas and will not go close to it again.”
The Turkish army has earlier launched more than 20 attacks on Kurdish positions in northern Syria, especially near Raqqa province where Kurds drove militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) from strategic border areas.
Reporting by: Helin Saeed
Source: ARA News