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Syria: Thousands protest in Kurdish-held Afrin amid fears of Turkish attack Open in fullscreen

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Syria: Thousands protest in Kurdish-held Afrin amid fears of Turkish attack

Speculation mounts that Turkey is planning an attack in the Kurdish-held region. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 July, 2017

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Thousands of mainly Kurdish protesters rallied in northern Syria on Wednesday as speculation mounts that Turkey is planning an attack in the Kurdish-held region.

Thousands of mainly Kurdish protesters rallied in northern Syria on Wednesday as speculation mounts that Turkey is planning an attack in the Kurdish-held region.

Demonstrators took to the streets in Afrin wrapped in the flags of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and carrying portraits of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in Turkey.

The protesters chanted "No to Turkish intervention," activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said.

"All the people of Afrin, both Arabs and Kurds, have responded to the call of the Kurdish parties to protest... to express their opposition to the Turkish intervention," said Suleiman Jaafar, a Kurdish official in Aleppo province.

They wanted to show "their support for the border protection forces and our forces on the front lines to protect our lands," said Jaafar.

Turkish soldiers and YPG forces have repeatedly exchanged cross-border fire in recent days, leading to the deaths of three civilians on Tuesday, and speculation has grown that Ankara is planning an assault on the group in Afrin

'Not a declaration of war'

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters on Wednesday that military preparations in northwest Syria were legitimate measures against threats from Kurdish groups.

"This is not a declaration of war. We are making preparations against potential threats," Kurtulmus said in an interview.

"It's ... a legitimate measure so that we can protect our independence. We cannot remain silent against those sending missiles from Afrin."

Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said last Saturday that Turkey would "instantly" hit back against any threat from Syria, be it from IS, the PKK or the YPG.

Kurdish official Jaafar, however, said that "not a shot has been fired at Turkey from Afrin," since the Syrian war began, accusing Ankara of "shooting at us".

The YPG controls of pocket of territory in Afrin, about 200 kilometres west of Raqqa where its forces are a major part of the US-backed campaign to recapture the city from the Islamic State.

The US is openly arming the YPG, leading to tensions with Turkey, which considers it a terrorist group as the Syrian branch of the PKK.

Turkey fears the creation of a contiguous Kurdish region in northern Syria would encourage separatism among its own Kurdish population, especially as Iraqi Kurdistan plans a referendum on independence. 

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