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Turkey launches first airstrikes in 17 months against Kurdish positions in Syria as Kurds celebrate Newroz

22.03.2021
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Hours after the US envoy to Syria wished a peaceful year to Kurds in northeast Syria as they celebrated Newroz, Turkish warplanes were in the sky over northeast Syria bombing Kurdish positions.

“Wishing everybody a happy new year, may all your hopes and dreams come true and wishing peace and success for all,” David Brownstein, the US deputy special envoy to Syria, said with a Newroz fire burning in the background in Hasakah province. Brownstein was seen in a video published by outlets affiliated with the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria lighting the Newroz fire with General Mazlum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an indispensable ally to the US-led international coalition in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) for over six years.  

The strikes by Turkish warplanes reported on a village in Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, on Saturday night were the first of its kind in 17 months since Turkey and its Syrian backed forces invaded the area to dislodge Kurdish forces from the border region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a “loud explosion” was heard “caused by airstrikes by a Turkish fighter jet on Sayda village” near Ain Issa.  The Observator said there were casualties but did not specify how many.

The strike comes as sporadic clashes have continued between Turkey-backed Syrian forces and the Kurdish-led SDF in the Ain Issa area. On Friday, the SDF destroyed a Turkish Humvee in the Ain Issa area and killed three “mercenaries”, a reference to the Syrian fighters backed by Turkey, according to Hawar news, affiliated with the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria. 

Turkey claims that the various forces in the SDF are linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody battle against Turkey for nearly four decades. Abdi said in an interview with the International Crisis Group in September that the PKK cadres who have been based in the region have started leaving. 

“Through US mediation and as part of our talks with the other Kurdish groups … we agreed to gradually pull out all these non-Syrian cadres from their current positions, and ultimately from Syria,” Abdi told Crisis Group researchers.

Turkey sees the PKK as its arch enemy and has imprisoned hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists in Turkey for alleged links with the PKK. As part of its latest crackdown against the Kurds, Turkish police detained pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergeriloglu on Sunday morning.   

Ankara also continues to bomb the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, reportedly to eliminate the PKK, but has killed dozens of civilians in the process over the years. On Friday, a Turkish air strike in the Sidakan area in Erbil province wounded two civilians. 

Fazel Hawramy

Fazel Hawramy-Rudaw

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