Ankara on Sunday launched an air operation in northern Iraq and Syria targeting several areas under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces and the PKK, with the death toll at least 31. Turkey holds them responsible for the recent attack in Istanbul. For its part, the PKK claims to have “no connection with this event”.
The operation dubbed “Sword Claw” has begun. Turkey launched an air assault in northern Iraq and Syria on Sunday, November 20, targeting several regions under the control of the Syrian Kurdish and PKK forces, blamed by Ankara for the recent attack which left six dead and 81 injured in Istanbul.
immediately appointed, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by Washington, had rejected these accusations and denied any involvement in this attack.
In an apparent aftershock against Ankara, rocket fire from Syrian territory hit a Turkish border post, injuring at least eight people, two soldiers and six Turkish police, according to the official Turkish Anadolu agency.
“A Turkish soldier and two members of the police special forces were injured by rocket fire at a border crossing with northern Syria” in southern Turkey, reported Anadolu who accuses the YPG, Units of Defense of the People, a movement of Kurdish fighters based in northern Syria and targeted by Turkish air raids.
The rocket fire reached the post of Bab-al-Hawa, the last crossing point for international humanitarian aid sent from Turkish territory by the UN to this region of northern Syria, in particular the pocket of Idleb where about three million people live in precarious conditions.
“The hour of reckoning has come!”
The operation, dubbed “Sword Claw”, aims to “eliminate terrorist attacks from northern Iraq and Syria, ensure border security and eliminate terrorism at its source”, said the Turkish Ministry of Defense. , in a press release.
“The hour of accounts has come! The bastards will have to be held accountable for their treacherous attacks”, he had launched in the night on Twitter.
Nearly 25 airstrikes were carried out by the Turkish army in the Syrian provinces of Raqa and Hassaké (northeast) and Aleppo (north), killing at least 31 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), a London-based NGO with an extensive network of sources in Syria. The victims are 18 Kurdish fighters and members of local allied forces, 12 Syrian soldiers and a civilian. There were 40 injured.
The strikes mainly targeted the city of Kobané (north) and its surroundings, near the Turkish border, in particular grain silos near Al-Malikiyah (north-east) and a power station in the south of this province, located in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, an armed coalition dominated by the Kurds).
Turkish strikes completely destroyed the fourth power station in Taql Bakl, near Al-Malikiyah in southern Hassakeh province, reported an AFP photographer, who saw dead bodies near a car on Sunday morning. on the spot, and large holes in the ground.
“Aggressive and barbaric” bombardments
Relatives of the injured gathered outside the city’s hospital where the wounded from the violent raids on the region were transferred at dawn, chanting sad Kurdish songs about the loss of children.
According to Souleiman Abou Hawkar, a resident of the region, the Turkish air force has repeatedly bombed the plant. “We were trying to save the wounded and recover the bodies when the plane bombed again, so we fled.”
The shelling also targeted positions where Damascus regime forces are deployed in Raqa, Hassaké and Aleppo, according to the OSDH.
“Kobane, the city that defeated the Islamic State, is the target of bombardments by the air force of the Turkish occupation”, announced Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the SDF, who had denied any link with the attack. which reported that two SDF members were killed in Al-Malikiyah, and four pro-regime soldiers in northern Aleppo.
The commander-in-chief of the FDS, Mazloum Abdi, denounced the “aggressive and barbaric” bombardments.
“The Turkish bombardment of our areas threatens the entire region. This bombardment does not serve any party. We are doing everything to avoid a major catastrophe. If war breaks out, everyone will be affected,” he tweeted.
On the other hand, the Turkish strikes have “no casualties” in northern Iraq, said an official of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan to AFP.
“The Turks have targeted at least eight areas where there are PKK bases without causing any civilian casualties,” assured this official, citing the mountainous regions of “Shingal, Rawanduz, Bradost, Qandil, Asos, Soran, Rania and Qaladzi”, located between Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Autonomous Kurdistan and the Iranian border.
According to a PKK spokesman “these operations are not new, they have lasted continuously for seven months”, he affirmed, assuring that “the Turkish army carried out 3,694 bombardments on the soil of Kurdistan from Iraq” during this period.
The day after the attack in a busy shopping street in Istanbul, the Turkish authorities accused a young woman, presented as a Syrian national, of having planted the bomb.
According to Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, “the order for the attack was given from Kobané”, a city controlled by Kurdish forces.
The US State Department said on Friday it feared “a possible military action by Turkey”, advising its nationals not to travel to northern Syria and Iraq.
At war since 2011, Syria is fragmented due to the intervention of multiple groups and foreign powers in the conflict.
Turkey, whose soldiers are present in areas of northern Syria, has been threatening since May to launch a major offensive against the SDF, which it considers “terrorists”. Ankara says it wants to create a 30 kilometer wide “security zone” on its southern border.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Turkish army launched three major operations in northern Syria targeting Kurdish militias and organizations.