A fighters of the SDF firing machine gun in clashes with ISIS northern Raqqa. Photo: ARA News
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HASAKAH – The conflict between the Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) escalated on Saturday, with at least two Turkish tanks being hit by SDF forces, killing one Turkish soldier and injuring three more, while Turkish artillery and jets hit SDF targets in the same morning.
Senior Kurdish officials previously warned Turkey that it could enter a swamp, but Turkish officials said they would not leave northern Syria until their mission was cleared with the goal to prevent the Kurds from connecting their cantons of Kobane and Efrin in northern Syria [Rojava], and removing ISIS from the Turkish border after the Gaziantep attack that killed at least 50 civilians at a wedding last week.
The Turkey-backed Syrian rebels want to link Jarabulus to Marea’ and Azaz and then push towards al-Bab in the northeastern countryside of Aleppo. This while the Kurdish-led forces want to take al-Bab to open a corridor to the besieged town of Efrin [also known as Afrin] in northwestern Syria.
Furthermore, the Turkish-backed Sultan Murat brigade captured three SDF fighters in the Turkmen Yusuf Beg village, publishing a video beating them on camera, calling them ‘PKK dogs’.
The fighting is taking place seven to eight kilometers from the town of Jarabulus, after Turkey-backed rebels took the town of Jarabulus without a fight from ISIS on 24 August.
The general command of the Kurdish forces of People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Saturday accused Turkey-backed rebels and the Turkish army of attacking Kurdish positions near Efrin, in the Raju district, adding that ‘Turkish attacks against federal Rojava and northern Syria region have continued.”
The YPG, which is a leading member of the SDF, said in a statement that the Turkish army crossed the Turkish border near Kobane, and also opened fire on cars on the highway between the towns of Amude and Derbisiye in northeastern Syria.
In the meantime, the SDF-linked Jarabulus Military Council said on Saturday that Turkish air crafts bombed their positions and residential areas in the village of al-Amarna, southern Jarabulus. Moreover, they said they destroyed two tanks of the ‘Turkish occupation army’.
“This creates a dangerous precedent and escalation threatens the faith of the region and turns it into an arena for a new conflict, amid threats of the factions of the Turkish occupation,” the council said.
“We in the military council of Jarabulus and its countryside confirm that these actions will not deter us from our goal to protect our people against any aggression,” the council said. “We also stress that our main objective is to fight ISIS and terrorism, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves and our people against any other armed groups.”
Moreover, non-Kurdish SDF brigades such as the Seljuk brigade, Jaysh Thuwar, and Northern Sun Brigade that fought in Manbij said on Saturday they would join the fight against Turkish-backed rebel groups.
The Jarabulus Military Council called on Turkey to stop targeting their troops that are fighting ISIS.
“We call on the international community and coalition forces to intervene and stop such acts,” it said.
Also on Saturday, Kurdish civilians and officials protested against Turkish military vehicles that entered the Syrian border territory of Kobane city to dig trenches.
“People of Kobane demonstrate on the border against Turkish violations of building a wall and cross inside Syria,” said Idris Nassan, a former senior official in the Kobane administration. “Kobanian people closed their stores and shops to demonstrate on the border against Turkish actions.”
Coalition officials are increasingly worried that the conflict between the two coalition allies –SDF and Turkey– could divert from the fight against ISIS. Analysts say the conflict could seriously escalate.
“Neither side has an incentive to seriously fight one another, but the entire situation is a power keg, and these repeated clashes could escalate,” Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council told ARA News.
“The Turks appear committed to carving out a little buffer zone on the border, which is bringing its allies up against the SDF on the outskirts of this territory. However, it also appears that the Turkish invasion forced ISIS to flee and the SDF managed to expand its territory as well. If I had to guess, these villages at the edges each sides’ territory is where the flash points will be,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Kurdish YPG official spokesman Sharvan Darkish said: “While our forces are fighting ISIS, some Turkey-backed militias are attacking our positions and hampering our and international coalition fight against terror.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg and Jan Mohammed
Source: ARA News