Fighters and drones of the Turkish Armed Forces have bombarded various points in northern Syria throughout the night under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of groups supported by the United States and led by the Kurdish YPG militias. Positions of the Kurdish armed group PKK in northern Iraq have also been attacked. Ankara accuses both Kurdish organizations of the attack last Sunday in Istanbul, which caused six deaths and more than 80 wounded. Representatives of the SDF and local human rights organizations say that at least 15 people have died in the bombardments, including fighters from the Kurdish militias and the Syrian Army.
“It’s time for revenge! We are settling scores with the scoundrels who carry out their heinous attacks!” the Turkish Defense Ministry tweeted overnight from Saturday to Sunday, shortly after the attacks began. The ministry itself has published images of the fighters taking off and of alleged targets hit. They also released photos of the high command of the Armed Forces while they were following the development of the attack and of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he was informed of the operation. This has been dubbed “Claw-Sword” (“Claw” has been the name given to successive air and ground military campaigns against PKK bases and infrastructure in northern Iraq since 2019).
In a statement, the Turkish Ministry of Defense justifies its actions in article 51 of the United Nations Charter (which contemplates “the immanent right of legitimate defense, individual or collective, in case of armed attack”) and that in those areas are “the bases used by terrorists to attack” Turkey. The Turkish channel NTV assured that Russia opened the airspace under its control in Syria for the use of Turkish fighters, although other Turkish media stated that the fighters did not cross the air border between the two countries. In fact, the bombed areas in Syria – around the towns of Tal Rifaat, Kobane, Ain Issa, Qamishlo, Al Malikiya – are located at a distance of between 1 and 37 kilometers from the Turkish border. In a communication to the Air Force, the Turkish Defense Minister, General Hulusi Akar, congratulated the participating pilots on the “success” of the operation and stressed that it was planned “with great care so as not to harm innocent people or the environment.” ”.
The SDF press office, on the other hand, accused Turkey of having shelled two villages full of internally displaced persons who fled previous Turkish military incursions in the areas of Afrin in 2018 and Ras al Ain in 2019. Local Kurdish media They assured that civil infrastructures have also been hit. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), with sources in the area, explained that 15 fighters have died in the Turkish attacks, nine of them from the SDF and another six from the Syrian Army.
The SDF commander, Mazloum Abdi, quoted by local media, denounced: “The towns of Kobane, Derik [Al Malikiya, en árabe], the north of the province of Aleppo and other areas of the Syrian-Turkish border were bombed by the Turkish fighters. The Turkish bombings have nothing to do with the Istanbul bombing; Turkey has been planning this attack for a year.” Abdi assured that there are no indications that show “military land movements.” Still, in a tweet, he warned that “the bombing threatens the entire region” and that “if war breaks out, everyone will be affected by its results.”
For months, Ankara had threatened to re-enter Syrian territory – especially in the areas of Tal Rifaat and Kobane – to end what it considers a “threat to its security”. For this, it has sought the approval of the United States and Russia, two powers with a presence in the area, although without obtaining it. Some analysts believe that it was opposition from Iran, which also maintains fighters in northwest Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, that has prompted Moscow not to give the green light to a Turkish ground incursion. The United States, which in 2019, during the presidency of Donald Trump, withdrew part of its troops from the area to allow the Turkish attack, has warned Turkey against new incursions against its SDF protégés, key in the fight against the jihadists of the Islamic State, although Ankara recalls that these militias maintain close ties – including shared military commands – with the PKK, a group included in the list of organizations that Washington considers terrorists.
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Investigation of the attack
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, a court this week ordered provisional detention for 17 of the fifty detainees after the attack last Sunday, including the accused of planting the explosive on Istiklal Avenue, Ahlam Al Bashir. Before the judges, Al Bashir, a Syrian national of Arab ethnicity, accused the Kurdish YPG of planning the attack, but claimed to have taken the package — which she said she believed was a drug package — under duress to her family in Syria. , as reported by Turkish media. Other detainees are those who took the alleged terrorist to the scene and who, supposedly, planned to help her escape from her across the western border of Turkey into European territory. A statement was also taken from a leader of the ultra-right Turkish MHP party – part of the coalition that supports the Erdogan government – in the southeastern province of Sirnak after verifying that calls were made to Al Bashir from a telephone line in her name. However, the politician has denounced that it is a case of identity theft and that the SIM card in her name was acquired through fraudulent methods.
In Bulgaria, the authorities have arrested five people (three Moldovans and two Kurdish-Syrians) and the Prosecutor’s Office accused them of “supporting terrorist acts in another country” and “human trafficking”. However, the court in charge of investigating the case decided to remand him to preventive prison only for the second accusation, considering that there was not enough evidence to support support for terrorist acts in another country.
At the moment, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. The SDF, of which the YPG is the most important group, and the PKK have denied their participation, and leaders of the former consider it “a conspiracy” to justify the Turkish attack on northern Syria under Kurdish control.
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