There is no question that one is not limited to air operations, “a decision must be made on how many forces from the ground forces have to participate, and then steps are taken,” Erdogan said, according to the state news agency Anadolu on Monday. Meanwhile, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reported three dead and six injured in Gaziantep province. The governor of Gaziantep blamed the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG for the shelling.
Kurdish activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported exchanges of gunfire with Kurdish militias and heavy Turkish shelling in rural northern Aleppo region and in Kobane. The observatory draws its information from a network of different sources in Syria. This information can often hardly be verified by an independent party, but according to ARD assessments, the agency provides “useful information”.
Turkey’s Karkamis provincial governor in Gaziantep said five rockets had been fired at Turkey’s border region. Two people were killed and six injured. The broadcaster CNN Türk reported that the rockets came from the Kobane region, which is controlled by the Kurdish YPG. The rockets hit a school, two houses and a truck.
“Villains will be held accountable”
The Turkish government previously linked its airstrikes to an attack on Istanbul’s Istiklal shopping street a week ago on Sunday. She sees the YPG and PKK as masterminds behind the attack – both had rejected it. The investigations in Turkey are still ongoing. It was “settlement time,” the ministry said on Twitter. “Terrorist elements” should be neutralized and attacks on Turkey avoided, it said. The Turkish government classifies the YPG and the PKK as terrorist organizations.
Erdogan apparently made the decision to launch Turkey’s fifth Syria offensive on the plane. According to the President’s Office, he signed the order on his way back from the G-20 summit in Bali, where he met US President Joe Biden, among others. Erdogan said the offensive was not discussed in advance with either the US or Russia, and Turkey does not need to seek permission. Erdogan has been talking about a possible military offensive since the middle of the year, which should penetrate from the national border up to 30 kilometers deep into the neighboring country.
Russia and Iran – both also involved in the Syrian civil war – had advised Turkey against such an approach. The USA had also warned of another offensive. Russia supports government troops in the Syrian civil war, the USA sees the YPG as a partner in the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS), but also classifies the PKK as terrorist. It is unlikely that the offensive took place without the knowledge of the United States and Russia: both control parts of Syrian airspace.
Respect for international law required
Germany called on Turkey to exercise restraint in its airstrikes against Kurdish positions. “We call on Turkey to react proportionately and to respect international law,” said Foreign Office spokesman Christofer Burger on Monday in Berlin. Turkey and all other parties involved should “do nothing that would further aggravate the already tense situation in northern Syria and Iraq.”
In particular, respect for international law means that civilians must be protected at all times, Burger said. “The reports of possible civilian casualties from these Turkish airstrikes are extremely worrying.” Referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter, the spokesman also made it clear: “The right to self-defense does not include a right to retaliation.”
Years of tension continue to intensify
Turkey has been trying for years to set up a “buffer zone” on its border with Syria and push back the Kurdish units it blames for terrorist attacks. The conflict between Turkish armed forces and the PKK has a decades-long history and has so far claimed thousands of lives – according to the organization International Crisis Group, the majority of PKK members and allies have been killed.
Dead after shelling from Syria
Two people have been killed by rocket fire from Syria in the Turkish border town of Karkamis. Officials said five rockets were fired at the center of the city. According to the state-run Anadolu News Agency, the attacks hit a school and two houses and a truck near the border crossing to the Syrian city of Jarablus.
The new riots are a sharp rise in tensions between two powers that have long hated each other, writes the New York Times (“NYT”). Conflicts are also caused by the fact that Ankara is currently blocking Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, citing, among other things, the alleged support of the Kurdish militias by both countries.
Swedish Ambassador summoned
On Monday, the Turkish foreign ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador to Ankara. In this way, Turkey wanted to condemn the fact that “images with terrorist propaganda and insults against our President (…) had been projected onto the building of our embassy in Stockholm,” according to Turkish diplomatic circles. Groups connected to the PKK are responsible for this.
Turkey was thus reacting to a video published by the Swedish Rojava Committee on Twitter on Monday. Rojava is the self-declared semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria. The committee supports the Syrian-Kurdish organization YPG.
Action by Turkey ensures “political survival”
Sinem Adar, researcher at the Center for Applied Turkish Studies (CATS) of the Science and Politics Foundation, sees the Turkish approach as a continuation of “the war policy and war economy” that have ensured the Turkish leadership’s political survival since 2015.
In 2015, a series of attacks that left many dead shook the country. Looking at the polls, the ruling AKP under Erdogan as prime minister was able to take advantage of the situation at the time. At that time, she was able to regain a majority that she had lost shortly before. The fact that Erdogan blames the Kurds for the most recent attack in Istanbul is a “well-known and effective strategy” in view of the upcoming elections, according to the “world”.