Syria – Conflict – Turkey – Kurds

Turkey Attacks Kurd, Government Forces in Syria, Mulls Ground Assault

Turkey Attacks Kurd, Government Forces in Syria, Mulls Ground Assault
Sun Feb 14, 2016 12:12:47

Turkey hit Kurdish and Syrian government targets on Saturday as Ankara mulled a ground assault with Saudi troops, further complicating efforts to end the war just days after the US and Russia agreed on a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria within a week.

State-run news agency Anatolia said the armed forces shelled Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) targets around the town of Azaz, and also responded to government fire on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

There were no further details on the nature of the Turkish strikes, which triggered alarm in Washington, but they probably involved artillery fire from tanks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Minnigh airbase, recently taken by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia from rebels, was hit in the Turkish shelling.

Ankara considers the PYD and its YPG militia to be branches of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Saturday’s shelling came shortly after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara would, if necessary, take military action against the PYD.

“We can if necessary take the same measures in Syria as we took in Iraq and Qandil,” he said in a televised speech, referring to Turkey’s bombing campaign last year against PKK targets in their Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq.

Also in the Aleppo region, which has taken center stage in the conflict, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, launched a two-pronged attack on Tal Rifaat, one of the remaining rebel bastions north of Aleppo city, the Observatory said.

It said Tal Rifaat also came under attack in at least 20 Russian air strikes on Saturday.

The US State Department said it was concerned about the situation north of Aleppo, was working to “de-escalate tensions on all sides” and urged Turkey to halt its strikes.

“We have urged Syrian Kurdish and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory,” US State Department spokesman John 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,” AFP reported.

S/SH 11

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