Turkey has ended the “Euphrates Shield” military operation it launched in Syria last August, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday, but suggested there might be more cross-border campaigns to come.
Turkey sent troops, tanks and warplanes to support Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, push ISIS militants away from its border and stop the advance of Kurdish fighters.
“Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name,” Yildirim said in an interview with broadcaster NTV.
On August 24, the Turkish military and allied rebel factions launched Operation Euphrates Shield. As part of the operation, Turkey’s military and its allies took over Jarablus city in August. The Kurds have denounced the Turkish operation as an occupation of Syria, and vowed to resist it with the help of local forces.
The Turkish Army forces and allied rebels in Syria also captured the town of al-Bab on February 23 after a deal with ISIS to withdraw, in an operation that killed at least 444 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Turkey, however, denied the killing of civilians in al-Bab.
After taking al-Bab, Turkey-backed Islamist rebels started to attack Manbij. However, in early March, the US-led coalition sent more armored vehicles to the north of Manbij city near the Sajur river in order to deter hostile acts between the the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkey. Also, a Russian aid convoy arrived to western Manbij for the same goal.
Turkish troops are still stationed in the secured regions and along the border. The number of Turkish troops involved in Euphrates Shield has not been disclosed.
One aim was to stop the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from crossing the Euphrates westwards and linking up three mainly Kurdish cantons it holds in northern Syria–Rojava.
Turkey fears the Syrian Kurds carving out a self-governing territory analogous to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, a move that might embolden Turkey’s own large Kurdish minority to try to forge a similar territory inside its borders.
It views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the PKK, which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by both the United States and European Union.
President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is saddened by the US and Russian readiness to work with the YPG in Syria.
In the meantime, the Turkish authorities continued to build walls and enter the Syrian Kurdish border areas for months. Moreover, there have been constant bombardments of Kurdish positions near Afrin, Til Rifaat, Kobane and Tel Abyad, where dozens have been killed, mostly civilians.
The Turkish government is building concrete walls under the pretext of stopping illegal crossings along the 900-kilometer borderline with Syria. However, Kurdish officials say the wall is built to embargo the Kurdish-held territories in Syria.
Source: ARA News & Agencies
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