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The New Arab Staff

Turkey sends reinforcements into northern Syria, anticipating reprisal attacks from Kurdish militias

Turkey considers Syria's YPG to be an offshoot of the PKK [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 June, 2020

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Adding to rising tensions, sources told The New Arab that Syrian regime forces had sent reinforcements to areas under Kurdish control.
Turkey has sent heavy reinforcements into areas of northern Syria held by Ankara-backed rebel groups, sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language edition on Wednesday.

It comes in anticipation of reprisal attacks from Syrian Kurdish militia, sources added, following yesterday's cross-border airstrikes on suspected targets of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, whom Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation.   

On Wednesday, Turkey announced it had deployed special forces to northern Iraq in an operation named "Claw Tiger".

According to the defence ministry, the operation was necessary due to a "recent upsurge in attacks" on Turkish police stations and military bases close to the Iraqi border.

Turkey has been fighting a prolonged on-off civil war with the PKK since the early 1980s.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the largest Kurdish political party in Syria - and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), are considered by Ankara as Syrian off-shoots of the PKK.

While many states designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation the YPG is not, and its fighters have played a key role in the US-backed fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

In October 2019, Turkey launched "Operation Peace Spring" against Kurdish militias along the Syrian-Turkish border, driving them away from a 32-kilometre strip of land along the Turkish-Syrian border, with the support of Syrian rebels.

Adding to rising tensions, sources within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - the umbrella group of the YPG - told The New Arab on Wednesday that Syrian regime forces had sent reinforcements to areas under Kurdish control in the Raqqa countryside.

Seperately, rival Kurdish parties on Tuesday reached an agreement on a joint political vision in a series of talks to achieve unity.

Read more: Rival Kurdish groups in Syria reach breakthrough agreement

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) - a member of the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition National Coalition - is a main rival of the PYD.

The PYD's political and military dominance had led to accusations from the KNC that it was consolidating power and marginalising other Kurdish groups.

In 2017, the PYD-led Kurdish administration shuttered the offices of opposition parties, including the KNC, which called the move a political purge.

Their offices were reopened three months ago, and with the support of the US - which backed Kurdish-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria -they recently entered into reconciliation negotiations with the PYD.

While Turkey considers the PYD a terror organisation, leading to its exclusion from UN talks in Geneva and the parallel Russia and Iran-backed Astana process, the KNC enjoys warmer ties with Ankara.

Analysts believe the deal may guarantee the PYD’s presence at upcoming UN talks on the Syrian war, set to be held in Geneva.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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