Kurdish YPG detains 16 SDF fighters for fleeing

Kurdish YPG detains 16 SDF fighters for refusing to fight Turkish troops

3 min read
16 October, 2019
A Kurdish militia arrested 16 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria for refusing to fight against Turkish troops.
Syrian National Army members continue operations against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria [Anadolu/Getty]

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) on Tuesday arrested 16 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria for refusing to fight against Turkish troops.

The 16 fighters were arrested after they fled clashes with the Turkish and Syrian National Army in Tel Abyad, in the countryside of northern Raqqa, SMART News Agency reported.

Kurdish forces are trying to stave off a Turkish offensive on their positions in northeast Syria that was launched last week following the withdrawal of US troops.

An agreement between the Kurdish-led SDF and Bashar al-Assad officials allowing the entry of regime forces into towns and villages was met with protests in several areas of eastern Syria on Wednesday.

The agreement to allow regime troops into SDF-held areas came after Turkey launched "Operation Peace Spring" against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria.

Turkey's relentless assault, which has seen air strikes, shelling and a ground incursion manned mainly by Syrian proxy fighters, has killed scores of civilians and fighters since its launch.

Ankara has rebuffed international pressure to curb its military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria on Wednesday despite US President Donald Trump dispatching his deputy Mike Pence to Ankara to demand a ceasefire.

President Erdogan rejected any negotiations, telling parliament the only way to solve Syria's problems was for the Kurdish forces to "lay down their arms... destroy all their traps and get out of the safe zone that we have designated".

Battles raged in the key Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain on Wednesday, with Kurdish fighters burning tyres in a bid to blind Ankara's warplanes and digging in against a ground offensive by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.

The Kurds feel they have been betrayed by the United States, their once formidable ally in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group, and left to fend for themselves in the battle against Turkish forces.

Comment: Syria's Kurds abandoned to a perfect storm of Turkish aggression and US isolationism

Turkey launched its assault believing it necessary to curb the power of the SDF due to their ties with Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.

Ankara insists the SDF, and its political wing the Syrian Democratic Council, are merely fronts for the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), allegedly an arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency against Turkey for the past 35 years.

Turkey also says it wants to establish a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border where it could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees it hosts from the eight-year civil war.

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