Turkey steps up attacks on Syria’s Kurds amid Iraq operation

Ankara is using the cover of Ukraine’s war to weaken the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and associated groups in the region.

Turkey’s military has launched a spate of strikes on Kurdish-run parts of northeast Syria over the past week as world attention is focused on Ukraine.

At least four artilleries from the Turkish side of the border bombarded the symbolic Kurdish-majority Syrian city of Kobani on Friday. Two civilians were wounded, according to local reports.

On Wednesday, a Turkish drone strike killed the co-commander of the US-backed militia forces in Kobani and two other female fighters from the Kurdish-led Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

Turkey has launched four other drone strikes in the border area within the past ten days, two of which targeted facilities used by local security forces, spokesman for the Kurdish-led forces Farhad Shami told Al-Monitor.

Artillery from Turkish-controlled areas has also repeatedly targeted the Tal Tamr and Zarkan over the past week, killing one and wounding at least five, according to the locally-based Rojava Information Center.

The US negotiated a ceasefire to halt Turkey’s attacks against the Syrian Kurdish faction in 2019, but so far there has been no condemnation or statement of concern from Washington.

Ankara considers the US-backed Syrian fighters to be inextricable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Marxist militant group headquartered in the mountains of neighboring northern Iraq. Turkey announced a full-blown military operation against the PKK in northern border areas of Iraq’s Kurdistan region earlier this week.

An alliance of multiethnic Kurdish-led forces in Syria ­– who are partnered with United States military and its international coalition against the Islamic State group – have distanced their cause from that of the PKK and say they pose no threat to Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, threatened yesterday that the Syrian fighters are not exempt from the assault. Earlier today, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu publicly blamed what he said were PKK-affiliated groups for two recent bombings in Turkish cities.

A blast injured several Turkish prison officers and killed one aboard a bus in the city of Bursa earlier this week, and another reportedly hit the office of Turkey Youth Foundation NGO in Istanbul yesterday. No injuries were reported in the latter incident.

Soylu said on Friday blamed the Istanbul incident on Turkey’s Revolutionary Communist Party (DKP) and the Bursa bus explosion on the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MKLP), which he described as groups “subcontracted to the PKK.”

No evidence of the groups’ involvement was presented, though top PKK official Duran Kalkan threatened last week to bring the fight to Turkey’s cities.

Turkey’s attacks have worsened already the tenuous peace between the dominant Syrian Kurdish faction and minority Kurdistan National Congress (KNC). KNC offices in three cities were burned in attacks attributed to affiliates of the Syrian PYD, a charge which a senior PYD representative denied to Al-Monitor on Wednesday.

The Syrian Kurdish forces have addressed the escalation with the US-led coalition, spokesperson Shami told Al-Monitor. “So far there has been no reaction in the field from the [US-led] coalition or Russia, which is also a guarantor of the [2019] ceasefire,” Shami said.

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