A Turkish soldier stands on an armoured vehicle on Turkey’s border with Syria’s Idlib in October. Photo: Ilyas Akengin/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish and Kurdish forces exchanged fire across the Afrin-Idlib border on Monday, according to several reports. No casualties have been reported.
Turkey’s state media reported that Kurdish forces fired the first shot, attacking a Turkish army observation point in northern Idlib province with howitzers. A security official told Anadolu Agency that one artillery round hit within 100 metres of their position and four others landed in civilian areas.
Turkish forces retaliated immediately, the security source added.
The UK-based conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed there was an exchange of fire, stating that Kurdish YPG targeted Dar Ta izzah town and retaliatory fire was launched into YPG-controlled Afrin canton.
Turkish forces entered Syria’s Idlib province in October with two goals. First is to establish a de-escalation zone as part of an agreement with Iran and Russia to create safe areas for Syrian civilians.
Their second goal is to counter the Kurds. Ankara considers the Kurdish YPG and its allied political party the PYD as extensions of the banned PKK. The Syrian Kurdish groups follow the doctrine of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan but insist they are a distinct organization.
The YPG is allied with the US-led Coalition in the war against ISIS in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Friday that they will “cleanse Afrin of the structure there called the YPG terrorist organization.”
The YPG have not immediately commented on Monday’s incident, but they have regularly reported exchange of fire with Turkish forces in the Afrin area, accusing the Turks and their allied Syrian militias of daily attacks.
“They are not going to be able to seize a tiny part of our land,” the YPG stated last week, vowing to defend Afrin.
Erdogan is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Sochi on Wednesday to discuss Syria.
Russia has expressed willingness to include the Kurdish parties in peace talks – a move fiercely opposed by Turkey. The issue is expected to be discussed by the presidents.