Turkish artillery bombards YPG forces in Syria after Erdogan’s ‘final warning’

Turkey carried out an offensive against YPG forces in Syria's Afrin region earlier this year and has repeatedly said it would target YPG forces to the east of the Euphrates River. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 October 2018

Turkish artillery bombards YPG forces in Syria after Erdogan’s ‘final warning’

  • Turkish forces bombarded Kurdish YPG militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria
  • The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area and was aimed at preventing ‘terrorist activities’

BEIRUT: Turkish artillery on Sunday bombarded Kurdish militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.

The shelling came two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a “final warning” to anyone who endangered Turkey’s borders, and said Ankara would focus its attention on Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the river.

The bombardment targeted YPG militia forces in the Zor Magar area to the west of northern Syria’s Ayn Al-Arab region. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The rare Turkish shelling east of the Euphrates comes a day after an international summit on Syria hosted by Turkey, which called for an inclusive political process and for creating conditions to allow the return of millions of refugees.

Speaking at the summit, Erdogan said Turkey has been among those most harmed by “terror organizations” in neighboring Syria.

“We will continue eliminating threats against our national security at its root in the Euphrates’ east as we have done so in its west,” Erdogan said.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said Turkish artillery strikes Sunday hit trenches and positions built by the YPG on a hill in the village of Zor Moghar, in rural northern Aleppo.

The village is across the Euphrates River that separates Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces and the YPG.

The YPG said in a statement the shelling killed a Kurdish fighter from the Self Defense Forces. The newly formed forces are affiliated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, leading the fight against Daesh in eastern Syria.

The YPG said the Turkish shelling was “unprovoked” and is a distraction from the fight against Daesh in eastern Syria.

“Any illegitimate attack against northern Syria will not go unanswered,” the YPG said in a statement.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish Hawar news agency also reported the shelling, saying Turkish artillery targeted other villages east of the Euphrates as well. Hawar said there were no reports of casualties.

The Observatory said the shelling in the villages west of Kobani, a stronghold of the Kurdish fighters, came while Kurdish fighters were on high alert following Turkish threats.

The YPG took control of large areas of northeast Syria in 2012 when Assad regime forces pulled out. The militia forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive US support in the fight against Daesh.

That support is a major point of contention between the US and Turkey, and a large-scale offensive east of the Euphrates could aggravate already tense relations.

Turkey has also repeatedly threatened an attack on the YPG-controlled Syrian city of Manbij, where US troops are deployed.

To ease tensions, Washington and Ankara agreed on coordinated patrols around the city, one of which took place on Sunday.

Further east in Syria, Daesh drove the SDF from the Hajjin pocket near the Iraqi border early on Sunday, after two days of fighting.

The SDF, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, launched its campaign to recapture the Daesh holdout on Sept. 10, but have faced a fierce fightback from the militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 72 SDF fighters were killed as Daesh took advantage of a sandstorm that hampered coalition air cover and dispatched suicide bombers as part of their fightback.


Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 19 November 2019

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”