Kurds in Syria call for U.S. help as Turkey threatens ground assault


BAGHDAD – The US-backed Syrian enclave is bracing for attacks by Turkish forces, with its top commander calling on Washington to do more to counter a threatened ground invasion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forces launched airstrikes, drones and artillery strikes on towns and cities in northeastern Syria for a fourth day on Wednesday. According to the information of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in this area, about 18 civilians and three soldiers were killed in the attacks.

The escalation of violence has sent ripples of fear through the region, which is no stranger to threats from its neighbor. The Turkish government has been battling Kurdish militants at home for decades, and it views the Kurdish-dominated SDF as a threat to its national security. Turkish forces last captured the enclave in 2019, after the Erdogan administration saw it as a green light from then-President Donald Trump.

Turkey blamed Kurdish fighters for the bombing in Istanbul

Erdogan has threatened to repeat the attack with new ground forces, calling the strikes a response to an attack in central Istanbul last week that killed six people and wounded dozens. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In his speech to the party members gathered in Ankara, Erdoğan said: “Those who condemned the attack in Istanbul with crocodile tears showed their true colors with their reactions to the operation we launched. “We have a right to take care of ourselves.”

The US-led military coalition joined the fight against the Islamic State group in 2014 after the militants seized large swathes of territory in Syria. Three and a half years after the official defeat of the organization, hundreds of US troops are still stationed in territory not under the control of the Syrian government.

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This partial American withdrawal in 2019 reshaped the map of northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkish invasion, as it handed over territory once patrolled by US troops to Turkish-backed Syrian armed forces and elsewhere to the Syrian army and elsewhere. his Russian supporters.

In an interview with the Washington Post, General Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the commander-in-chief of the SDG and Washington’s strongest ally in Syria, argued that Western pressure could halt the ground operation and urged Western allies to strongly resist further Turkish attacks.

“It is no news to anyone that Erdogan has been threatening a ground operation for several months, but he may start this operation now,” Mazlum said. “This war, if it happens, will not benefit anyone. This will affect the lives of many people, causing massive waves of displacement and a humanitarian crisis.

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Violence has plunged the United States into an impasse. His decision to support Kurdish-led ground forces in the fight against the Islamic State group put him at odds with NATO ally Turkey, and he has since struggled to balance his commitments to both.

So far, the Biden administration has carefully avoided taking sides. Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy spokeswoman, told reporters on Tuesday: “We’ve been clear that these strikes threaten our mission to defeat ISIS on all fronts.

“We have been consistent on this,” he said when asked if the US was concerned about expanding military operations in Syria. “We are against the strikes that are happening now on all sides.”

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But James Jeffrey, a former US envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said the US and Russia, another major player in northeastern Syria, were less ambivalent in private talks. “Russia and the U.S., which have troops close to where the Turks are planning to operate, have urged Ankara not to take action, and that could at least stop a major operation.”

On Tuesday night, the SDF said at least 45 locations had been hit, including several medical facilities and a school building. In the border town of Derik, a reporter for the Kurdish Hawar news agency, Essam Abdullah, was killed in a Turkish airstrike while reporting on an earlier attack in the same area. His body was found by his colleagues.

In a tweet, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami echoed Biden’s 2019 statement accusing Trump of abandoning US-backed forces. “This is what is happening today in your presidency,” Shami wrote. “Our people and our forces have the right to know your position regarding the aggression of Turkey against our people.

James Jeffrey, former ambassador of the US-led coalition.

James Jeffrey: “There is a very real possibility of a Turkish ground attack, or at least a ground raid somewhere in Syria. “Russia and the U.S., which have troops close to where the Turks would conduct the operation, have urged Ankara not to take action, which could at least stop a major operation.”

In the town of Kobane, near the Turkish border, residents slept in hallways with window frames shaking. Families packed their belongings into backpacks Tuesday night, fearing they would soon run out. Others dragged their beds and slept in nearby gardens, hoping to be safer.

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They usually don’t know what caused the explosions around them, just that there may be more after that. Nesrin Salim, 32, said she ran home all night with blankets, then rushed her children to the trees where other local families were gathering.

“We panicked; we are confused. We didn’t know when we would be hit,” said Salim, recalling the attacks as he hung his children’s clothes to dry on Wednesday morning. “My only concern is my children. I can’t think of anything else. I don’t want them to hear those explosions.”

Concerns about Washington’s waning interest in northeastern Syria have made the SDF increasingly dependent on the Syrian government and its ally Russia for protection against Turkey. Russia’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said on Wednesday that Moscow’s “close ties” with Turkey’s Defense Ministry could prevent an escalation of the situation.

As Turkey’s attacks continued, shots were also fired from Syria into Turkey. A child and a teacher were killed and six others, including a 5-month-pregnant woman, were injured in mortar shelling in the border area of ​​Turkey’s Gaziantep province on Monday.

Mazloum denied that the SDF was responsible for the strikes, saying the forces were only trying to defuse the situation. But in other public media, the SDF vowed to retaliate. “They have killed many of our people and we will take revenge,” Shami tweeted on Monday.

Mustafa al-Ali in Kobane, Syria, Karoun Demirjian in Washington and Sara Dadouch in Beirut contributed to this report.


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