Turkish military trucks are pictured transporting equipment to the border with Syria in Kilis on December 12, 2018. Photos: Ahmed Ekinci/Anadolu Agency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish armed forces have sent tanks and howitzers to the Syrian border, state-run media reported on Wednesday evening.
Anadolu Agency reported military trucks loaded with the equipment traveling to the Turkey-Syria border in the Elbeyli region of Kilis province, on the west side of the Euphrates River.
The military vehicles were traveling under tight security, the media agency stated.
The deployment comes just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened
a new military operation against Kurdish groups in northern Syria.
“We will start an operation to free the east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organisation in the next few days,” he declared.
Turkey alleges the Kurdish groups in northern Syria – the armed People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the political Democratic Union Party (PYD) – are branches of the PKK. Ankara has repeatedly threatened military action against them in their territory east of the Euphrates after seizing control of the Afrin enclave at the start of the year.
The spokesperson for the YPG, Nuri Mahmoud, said they are taking Erdogan’s threats very seriously.
He accused Turkey of trying to draw their forces away from the war against ISIS.
“As you know, a very serious campaign is underway in Hajin against the terror of Daesh [ISIS]. This is the third time that Erdogan’s threats coincide with the destruction of Daesh,” said Mahmoud.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were pulled away from the battlefield twice before – once when the Turkish army and their allied Syrian militias invaded Afrin and then again last month when Turkish forces fired on Kurdish positions and villages near the border.
“Of course these aren’t threats to be taken easily or mildly. These are very dangerous threats,” he said. “These is a real danger to northern Syria and Rojava. There especially is a real danger to end the Hajin campaign.”
YPG spokesperson Nuri Mahmoud. Photo: Rudaw
He denied that Turkey could be capable of waging a similar campaign against the YPG east of the Euphrates as it did in Afrin, explaining that Russia and Turkey made a deal based on “mutual interests” with Russia backing off while Turkish tanks rolled into the Kurdish enclave.
No such deal has been made between the US-led coalition against ISIS and Turkey this time, said Mahmoud.
“We and the Americans are fighting against the terror of Daesh together. We are also cooperating for the stability of Syria,” he added.
The political administration of the self-autonomous region in northern Syria called on Damascus and the international community to take a stance and prevent a Turkish cross-border offensive.
We “call on all honorable Syrians to stand united against the colonial policies of the Turkish state. Today is the day to dedicate all our energies to protect our land, our people. We must do everything in our power to preserve the unity of our land and the unity and fraternity of our peoples,” read a statement from the Executive Council of the Democratic Autonomous Administration.
They accused Erdogan of wanting to expand Turkey’s borders and “prolong the life” of ISIS.
The US-led coalition, NATO, and the United Nations must prevent this “violation of international law and a state of occupation,” the council stated.
And the Syrian regime must respond to this “attack on Syria’s sovereignty.”
The United States is caught in the middle, trying to prevent war between their NATO ally Turkey and their Kurdish comrades-in-arms fighting ISIS. Washington and Ankara laid out a roadmap for Manbij where they are conducting joint patrols and the US established observation posts along the Turkey-Syria frontier to monitor activities on both sides of the border.
Updated at 11:16 pm