Activists continue to report Turkish shelling in northern Syria. So far, Ankara has hardly seen itself exposed to international criticism. The US is also holding back.
Turkey has attacked Kurdish targets in northern Syria for the fifth straight day, activists say. Ankara forces fired on several villages on Thursday and attacked an area with a drone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. A military base of the Syrian government forces near Kobane is said to have been bombed. It was not clear whether it was a targeted fire.
According to its own account, Turkey only takes action against positions of the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. According to activists and the Kurdish militias, civilians have also been killed several times in the past few days. The information could not be independently verified.
Since Sunday, Turkey has been using airstrikes in northern Iraq and northern Syria against the YPG and the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK. Ankara blames them for an attack on Istanbul’s Istiklal shopping street almost two weeks ago. However, both groups denied this. The United States sees the YPG as a partner in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia in Syria, whose cells are still active in the country.
There is no criticism of Ankara
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Washington again remained cautious and condemned the military escalation in northern Syria without addressing Ankara directly. Condolences are expressed for the loss of civilian life in Syria and Turkey. Three people were killed in southern Turkey on Monday. According to the Turkish account, they died from rockets fired from Syria. Even Moscow, which is firmly on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, has so far only expressed cautious criticism of Turkey’s actions.
Turkey has said it has attacked hundreds of targets since Sunday, neutralizing a total of 254 terrorists.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to fuel concerns about a ground offensive. The Turkish President had threatened this several times in the past few days. Erdogan said on Thursday: “Until the threat of terrorism for our country ends completely, we will continue our fight inside and outside our borders uninterruptedly.”
path of least resistance
Hurcan Asli Aksoy from the Center for Turkish Studies (CATS) in Berlin assumes that Erdogan will also send the troops: “If he announces it, it will probably happen.” If Turkey invades Syria with ground troops, it will probably mainly hit Kobane, Aksoy said. The region has so far been firmly in the hands of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Here Turkey would have to be prepared for the least resistance from Russia, the USA and Iran. Russia is busy in Ukraine. “And the United States is apparently waiting for Ankara to wave Sweden and Finland into NATO.” The NATO member has so far blocked it, among other things with reference to its alleged support for the YPG.
Reports of Turkish air strikes on the notorious Al-Hol refugee camp and a prison in Al-Kamischli have caused a stir in the past few days. Both house IS supporters. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, eight guards died in the attack on the camp. People would have tried to escape. The SDF warned that this would jeopardize the fight against IS. The background to the attacks was initially unclear.
Turkey already occupies border areas in northern Syria after four previous military offensives. Ankara has maintained several military bases in Iraq since 2016.