While attention in recent weeks has focused on a ferocious regime assault on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, in Syria’s north Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters have been advancing in their offensive against the Kurdish enclave.
Turkey launched its operation on January 20, saying it intended to clear the border of People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters, whom they consider terrorists. However, its mission has expanded to include territory deep into Syria.
Senior Turkish officials have said that Ankara was trying, through war, to take lands it occupied during the Ottoman Empire. “We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Redur Xelil, head of foreign relations for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of fighters that includes the YPG, accused the Turkish forces of carrying out “demographic change” in Kurdish territory captured in Afrin.
The United Nations said that it received “disturbing reports” of civilian deaths in the north-western Syrian enclave and believes “tens of thousands” have been displaced. Turkey deny the claims.
The Turkish offensive opened a new front in a multi-sided civil war which enters its eighth year tomorrow. Turkey considers the YPG a serious threat to its security, while the US has relied on the group in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Ankara is riled by US support and arming of the Kurds, and accuses Washington of not fulfilling a promise to move the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Manbij east of the Euphrates River.
The Telegraph (London)