Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed – today, Friday – that his goal of the military operations in northern Syria is to establish a “security belt from west to east” along the southern borders of his country, and he said that the parties that support what he described as terrorist organizations are partners in the bloodshed in Turkey from before these organizations.
Since last Sunday, Turkey has launched a series of air raids and artillery strikes on northeastern Syria and sites of Kurdish fighters under the name “Operation Claw-Sword”.
The security zone that Erdogan wants – de facto – will include the city of Ain al-Arab (Kobani, as the Kurds call it), which the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized from the militants of the Islamic State in 2015 with the support of the United States, and these forces are dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. .
Ain al-Arab is the last area to escape the control of the Turkish army, which has been deployed since 2019 along the border in Syrian territory, and Ankara says that the attack that killed 6 people and wounded 81 others in central Istanbul recently – on November 13 – was planned. He is in Ayn al-Arab, which was denied by the Kurdish units.
“With the security belt we are establishing outside our borders, we will defend the rights of millions of innocent women and children,” Erdogan said in a speech marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. “God willing, we will accomplish this (the area) along our entire border from west to east as soon as possible,” he added.
The Turkish president – who intends to launch a ground offensive “when the time comes” – has identified the Syrian towns of Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ain al-Arab, to complete his 30-kilometer-deep security zone along the southern border.
The Turkish president also affirmed that his government’s responsibility in managing the country requires holding accountable those he described as the killers of women and children.
He added, “If we do not hold the killers of women and children accountable, this means that we have not fulfilled our responsibility in running the country, and we have not performed our most basic human duties either.”
For his part, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar confirmed that the military operation is continuing with air strikes and artillery shelling, and that 326 “terrorists” have been killed so far, as he put it.
Akar added that the Turkish forces will do everything necessary to eliminate terrorism and ensure the security of Turkey, its citizens and its borders, and he denied that the Turkish forces had targeted civilians or targets of the US-led coalition forces during the implementation of the military operations in northern Syria.
And the US Department of Defense said – the day before yesterday, Wednesday – that the Turkish air strikes in northern Syria threatened the safety of the American military, and that the escalating situation “endangers the progress that has been made over the years against the militants of the Islamic State.”
The American press also reported – last Tuesday – that Turkish fighters carried out attacks on some Kurdish units’ sites in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria, noting that these sites were close to a headquarters for American soldiers in the region.
The United States has about 900 soldiers in Syria, especially in the north-east, working with the Syrian Democratic Forces to fight the remnants of ISIS.
Over the past six days, the aerial bombardment and artillery fire focused on areas where the Turkish authorities say they are targeting sites belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its allies from the People’s Protection Units, the largest component of the “SDF”. All denied involvement in the Istanbul attack.
For its part, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces said – in a statement – that 4 of its fighters were killed during the Turkish bombardment of the town of Tal Tamr in rural Al-Hasakah, and the statement added that the Turkish Air Force targeted during the past 24 hours more than 100 sites in northern and eastern Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, which enjoy the support of the United States, added that the Turkish planes struck the protection forces of al-Hol camp and Jirkin prison in Qamishli, where ISIS members and their families are being held, and that “the international community bears full responsibility for that if it continues its silence.”
The director of the media office of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which is the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, called on what he described as friendly countries to stand by his forces.
On the other hand, the Anadolu Agency stated that the Turkish anti-terrorism forces arrested 27 people in the southern provinces of Mersin and Gaziantep, suspected of belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and what is known as the People’s Protection Units.
In Istanbul, the security authorities said – today, Friday – that they had arrested 18 suspects in an operation against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda organizations.