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.

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 37 min 22 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”