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Turkish drone downed as strikes ramp up against Syrian Kurds

Turkish drone downed as airstrikes increase against Syrian Kurds
3 min read
05 October, 2023
Local media claimed either the US Coalition forces or the Syrian Democratic Forces were responsible for shooting down the Turkish drone.
Turkey carried out at airstrikes against at east 17 locations in northeast Syria on Wednesday. [Getty]

Unknown parties downed A Turkish drone on Wednesday, 4 October, as it approached a US Coalition base in northeast Syria while Turkish aircraft carried out a series of airstrikes against US-backed Kurdish fighters (SDF) in the area.

Local media outlets claimed that the Turkish drone was either downed by US Coalition forces or the SDF, but neither party claimed responsibility for the attack.

Videos published by activists showed an explosion in the sky, followed by photos of the wreckage of the Turkish drone.

Turkish forces struck at least 17 locations in the area controlled by the SDF, the Rojava Information Center reported.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least seven civilians were killed in the strikes.

The renewed Turkish offensive follows comments by Turkey's FM Hakan Fidan on Tuesday, where he claimed that the two attackers who bombed government buildings in Ankara had come from Syria.

"All infrastructure, superstructure and energy facilities that belong to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and the YPG [the main contingent of the SDF], especially in Iraq and Syria, are legitimate targets," Fidan said.

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Kurdish media outlets reported an electricity power station bombed by Turkey on the outskirts of Qamishli, as well as an oil field and a target near a refugee camp.

Fidan's comments and the bombing spree that accompanied it sparked alarm within the SDF, with the head of the US-backed militia denying any links to the PKK attack in Ankara over the weekend.

"Turkey is looking for pretexts to legitimize its ongoing attacks on our region … Threats to target the region's infrastructure, economic resources, and populated cities is a war crime," Mazloum Abdi, the SDF commander, said in a statement.

Turkey views the SDF as an offshoot of the PKK, the latter of which has been engaged in an on-again-off-again conflict since the 1980s that has left more than 40,000 dead.

Will Turkey invade northeast Syria?

Fidan's comments were met with silence by the SDF's international partners, the US and Russia, who have mediated between them and Turkey in the past.

The last Turkish invasion of northeast Syria was in October 2019, when Turkish-backed Syrian fighters pushed SDF fighters away from the border to create a "security buffer" between the SDF and Turkey.

Since then, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to crack down on the SDF but has not followed through on his threats.

"We should expect a string of Turkish airstrikes and a potential ground operation depending on new developments like the Russian insistence on protecting the YPG," Ömer Özkizilcik, an Ankara-based foreign policy analyst who focuses on Syria, told The New Arab.

Özkizilcik specified that Turkey's willingness to launch a ground invasion of northeast Syria depends much on Russia, which conducts joint-security patrols along contested areas along SDF territory.

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The US, the SDF's main backer, also has a significant role in allowing any Turkish invasion of northeast Syria.

"Turkey wouldn't dare such a venture without tacit US consent. Until now, it's not there, not even from Russia's side," Hassan al-Ali, a Syrian activist based in Deir e-Zour, told TNA.

Turkey's foreign minister warned "third parties" to "stay away from the facilities and people belonging to the PKK and the YPG" on Tuesday, understood to reference US and Russian troops.

According to al-Ali, despite the increased air strikes by Turkey, a ground operation is unlikely unless it is given the green light from both Russia and the US.

The SDF is now facing pressure on its northern borders with Turkey and in the south in Deir e-Zour province, where tribal elements have tried to wrest control of key towns from the militia.