Start of Turkish incursion into Syria could trigger new conflicts
By starting a cross-border intervention against a Kurdish militia following the withdrawal of US troops, Turkey could trigger new conflicts in a country already devastated after more than eight years of war, analysts said.
Turkish jets and artillery pounded positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in north-eastern Syria after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the go-ahead October 9 for an operation dubbed “Fountain of Peace.”
Ankara said the incursion is designed to push the YPG, seen as a terrorist group by Turkey, away from the border and to establish a “security zone” that could pave the way for the return of millions of Syrian refugees from Turkey to their country.
Thousands of people fled the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain towards Hasakah province, held by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The Turkish air strikes had killed two civilians and wounded two others, the SDF said.
A Reuters cameraman in the Turkish town of Akcakale said he saw several explosions across the border in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, where a witness reported people fleeing en masse.
Turkish reports said the YPG shot missiles into Turkish border towns in answer to the onslaught. A thrust into Syrian by Turkish ground forces, supported by pro-Turkish rebels from Syria, was expected to follow the attacks by warplanes and howitzers.
Turkey had been poised to enter north-eastern Syria since US troops, who have been fighting with the YPG against the Islamic State (ISIS), left in an abrupt policy shift October 6 by US President Donald Trump. The withdrawal was criticised in Washington as a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies.
World powers fear the Turkish action could open a new chapter in Syria’s 8-year-old war and worsen regional turmoil. EU countries sharply criticised Turkey’s move. France and the United Kingdom put the issue on the UN Security Council agenda while Germany said Turkey’s action would lead to further instability and could strengthen ISIS, which the US-armed YPG helped defeat in Syria.
The YPG told Reuters its fighters had halted operations against ISISI after Turkey launched its military offensive “because it’s impossible to carry out any operation while you are being threatened by a large army right on the northern border.”
Brett McGurk, a former US envoy for the fight against the Islamic State, said on Twitter that the jihadist group was “surely preparing to reconstitute in the maelstrom” caused by the Turkish incursion.