Kurds in Syria protest against Turkish offensive threat

'We don't want war': Kurds in Syria protest against Turkish offensive threat
3 min read
06 October, 2019
Protests erupted in a predominantly Kurdish area on the Syrian border with Turkey on Sunday after Erdogan reiterated the threat of an offensive a day earlier.

The protests erupted after Erdogan repeated threats of an offensive [Getty]
Thousands demonstrated in a predominantly Kurdish area on the Syrian border with Turkey against threats of an offensive issued the day before by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara had reiterated on Saturday an oft-repeated threat to launch an "air and ground" operation in Syria against a Kurdish militia it deems a terrorist group.

Erdogan has said that his country's patience was wearing thin after Turkish and American officials agreed in August to establish a buffer zone meant to separate the Turkish border from Kurdish territories in northern Syria. 

"Down with Erdogan", "Down with the occupation", chanted protestors amassed on the border near the town of Ras al-Ain, an AFP correspondent said.

Protestors marched several kilometres (miles) to reach a base near Tel Arqam, held by the US-led international coalition which is allied with Kurdish-led forces against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, the correspondent added.

"We will not abandon our land and we will stay here but we do not want war," said Ahmed Mohamed Salem, a 52-year-old protestor. 

Erdogan had reiterated the threat of an offensive on Saturday.

"We've made our preparations, completed our operation plans, given the necessary instructions," Erdogan said during a televised speech, adding that the offensive could start "as soon as today, tomorrow”.

The protests came as Turkey has boosted troop numbers on its border with northern Syria, local media reported on Sunday.

The number of Turkish military patrols on the frontier with armoured vehicles "increased" in the border town of Akcakale, the private DHA news agency said.

Nine trucks carrying armoured vehicles and a bus with military personnel on board had reached Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, state news agency Anadolu reported late Saturday.

The convoy was sent to reinforce the military units on the Syria border, the agency said, without directly linking the arrival with the operation threatened by Turkey.

Kurdish authorities decried Erdogan's comments, insisting on Saturday that the "international community (must) put pressure on Turkey to stop it from carrying out any aggression".

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In the areas of Ras al-Ain, Tal Abyad and Kobane, all bordering Turkey, local forces have dug trenches and tunnels in preparation for a Turkish offensive, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said on Sunday. 

In mid September, the US-led coalition had said that "good progress" was being made in implementing the buffer zone.

The zone was agreed in August between Turkey and the US, and it involves creating a buffer between the Turkish border and Syrian areas controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, considered a "terrorist" offshoot of Kurdish insurgents in Turkey by Ankara. 

The US and Turkey have conducted three joint patrols as part of the deal, most recently on October 4. 

In parallel, the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria has said its forces had dismantled fortifications and started to withdraw from outposts on the border, including in the Ras al-Ain area.

If it takes place, Turkey's cross-border operation would be the third in Syria in recent years, after it launched offensives against IS in 2016 and the YPG in 2018. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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