Turkish military hits YPG positions east of Euphrates in Syria

File photo.

The Turkish military shelled People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions east of the Euphrates River in Syria on Sunday.

The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area to the west of northern Syria’s Ayn al-Arab region and was aimed at preventing the activities of YPG militants including the construction of trenches and barricades.

The assault came following YPG attacks on Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions in the town of Marea in northern Aleppo on Sunday, leaving three people dead and five wounded.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’s intention to clear northern Syria, both east and west of the Euphrates River, of “YPG terrorists” on Saturday during a meeting on Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkey has long said it would not allow the YPG to remain in the region as it is considered organically linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, US support for the YPG has allowed the group establish itself militarily in the region.

Meanwhile, the Turkish military continued attacks on YPG members working to repel the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, the Kurdish group said on Sunday. Turkey “tries to disrupt the peace and stability in our region” with its continued military provocations in the de facto Rojava-led areas, the YPG said in a statement.

The Turkish bombardment targeted “the villages of Zormikhar, Charikhli, Siftek, and Ashme, all of them located west of [Kobani], with tank, mortars, and howitzer fire,” the YPG continued. Turkish forces attacking the YPG as it continues to occupy the front lines in the fight against ISIL indirectly helps the terrorist organization, the group stated.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) on Sunday also made a statement and accused Western countries of remaining silent toward “Turkish provocations” and cross-border bombings following the meeting between Turkey, Russia, Germany and France on the Syrian crisis in İstanbul. “We emphasize that, without this position, Erdoğan would have not dared to bomb northern Syria,” the PYD alleged.

“Therefore, we call on everyone not to submit to the blackmail and threat of Turkey, and to do their duty to create a solution to the Syrian crisis, without excluding the representatives of the real people of Syria.”

Sharvan Darwish, spokesperson for the Manbij Military Council (MMC), on Sunday, also accused Turkey and its ally FSA of targeting MMC positions in Manbij and villages near the city such as al-Harima, Kareidiya, and al-Hamran.

“A woman who was working in an olive field with her family was severely injured. These deliberate acts by these factions, acting under direct Turkish command, violate the terms of the initiative put forward by international coalition forces with the Turkish side to end tension and conflict and establish security and stability in this area,” he said concerning the Turkish cross-border shelling Sunday morning.

He accused the Turkish-backed factions and the Turkish army of provoking tensions, which could lead to war and an “end to the stability in Manbij,” suggesting they were “tampering with civilian lives.”

“While we stress that we will take the measures required to deter these successive provocations, we ask the parties concerned to prevent escalation and tension for the Syrian situation to work,” Darwish said.

According to a report by Reuters on Monday, Syrian Kurdish special forces have joined an offensive against ISIL in eastern Syria, a commander said, after the jihadists recovered ground from US-backed forces in a fierce counterattack.

ISIL launched the assault against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Deir al-Zor region near the Iraqi border on Friday. Iraqi Shi’ite militias reinforced their side of the frontier in response, and Iraq’s military said it was ready to take on any militants who tried to cross the border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said around 70 SDF fighters were killed in the assault that ISIL launched under cover of a sandstorm, drawing on suicide bombers and female jihadists. The SDF says it lost 14 fighters.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition said ISIL had been able to regain some ground but that the SDF would “come back with coalition support.” An SDF commander attributed the setback partly to the relative inexperience of the Arab SDF forces that have carried out much of the fighting against hardened ISIL militants in Deir al-Zor.

While the Arab fighters of the Deir al-Zor Military Council had been able to make advances to a “certain level,” ISIL is resisting even more fiercely as the offensive closes in on its last pockets. This required the deployment of special forces from the YPG, which spearheads the SDF, and its female affiliate the YPJ.

“We were forced to draw on experienced fighters from the YPG and YPJ,” the commander said. “They will be relied on to complete the campaign.”

The fighting is the latest phase of efforts by the US-led coalition and the SDF to clear ISIL from its last foothold east of the Euphrates River following last year’s defeat of the group in Raqqa, its Syrian headquarters.

The Turkish army currently occupies a large portion of northwestern Syria, including the previously self-ruling town of Afrin, which it invaded earlier this year in a military campaign that saw hundreds of civilians killed and some 160,000 people uprooted from their lands.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to push the YPG and allegedly ISIL from northwestern Syria’s Afrin region. On March 18, Turkish troops and affiliated FSA militants captured Afrin city center.

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