An attack by Kurdish fighters that killed two Turkish police has been “the final straw”, said Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has warned that Turkey is determined to eliminate threats originating in northern Syria with patience running on the low. This could lead to a new military operation in Syria.
The two policemen were killed on Sunday 10 in a missile attack in northern Syria’s Azaz region. According to the interior ministry of Turkey, it was launched by the armed People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Separately, projectiles that landed in two areas caused explosions in Turkey’s southern Gaziantep province, across the border from Syria’s Jarablus city, the governor’s office said. A third landed in Jarablus and it is believed to have been launched from a region controlled by the YPG, the US-backed Kurdish fighters.
Ankara considers them as a “terrorist” organization because it sees it as the Syrian branch of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been involved in a fight against the Turkish state for greater Kurdish autonomy since 1984. This conflict has caused tens of thousands of deaths, and, as a result, the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU.
The US has partnered with the YPG to fight ISIL in Syria, brushing off angry criticism from Turkey and supporting them as an extension of the Kurdish-led Syrian democratic forces.
These different opinions continue to be one of the sore points in Erdogan’s uneasy relations with US President Joe Biden. Last week President Biden extended a Trump-era executive order deeming Turkey’s military campaigns in Syria a national emergency, stating it posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
In a statement, the White House claimed that Tukey’s military offensive into northeast Syria, “undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
Multiple attacks in the past
Azaz and Jarablus have been under the control of rebels backed by Turkey since Ankara’s first incursion into Syria in 2016. Turkey intervened in an operation to drive away ISIL fighters and the Syrian-Kurdish YPG members from its border with Syria.
According to TRTWorld, since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and to enable the peaceful settlement of residents. These have been the Euphrates Shield (2016), the Olive Branch (2018), and the Peace Spring (2019).
Then, in 2018, Ankara launched two other cross-border operations in Syria against the YPG, one of which targeted the Afrin region. On Monday 11, a car bomb also killed at least four people and wounded six others.
Tensions have recently risen as Turkey has stepped up its military campaign against Kurdish forces in both Syria and Iraq. Additionally, Erdogan has accused the US national security council coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk of “supporting terrorism” due to his proximity with the PKK and YPG.