Turkey’s president signals a new military operation in Syria, blaming Kurdish fighters for an attack that killed two policemen and rocket fire into the country’s south.
Turkey is determined to eliminate threats originating in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday, saying an attack by Kurdish fighters that killed two Turkish police was “the final straw”.
The policemen were killed on Sunday in a missile attack in northern Syria’s Azaz region, which Turkey said was launched by the armed People’s Protection Units (YPG), according to the interior ministry.
“We have no patience left regarding some regions in Syria which have the quality of being the source of attacks on our country,” Erdogan said in a news conference following a cabinet meeting.
“We are determined to eliminate the threats originating from here either with the active forces there or by our own means,” he added.
Separately, projectiles that landed in two separate areas caused explosions in Turkey’s southern Gaziantep province, across the border from Syria’s Jarablus city, the governor’s office said.
A third landed in Jarablus and was believed launched from a region controlled by the YPG, the US-backed Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers a “terrorist” organisation.
“The latest attack on our police and the harassment that targets our soil are the final straw,” Erdogan said.
Azaz and Jarablus have been under the control of rebels backed by Turkey since Ankara’s first incursion into Syria in 2016, in an operation that aimed to drive away ISIL fighters and the Syrian-Kurdish YPG members from its border with Syria.
Ankara has launched two other cross-border operations in Syria against the YPG, one of which targeted the Afrin region in 2018.
A car bomb also killed at least four people and wounded six others in Afrin on Monday, according to local sources.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who have been waging a deadly fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands since the 1980s.
But Washington has partnered with the YPG to fight ISIL in Syria, brushing off angry criticism from Turkey. The militia remains a sore point in Erdogan’s uneasy relations with US President Joe Biden.
The conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.