TURKIYE-backed Syrian fighters man a mortar in Jarabulus, near the border with Turkiye, in the rebel-held north of Syria’s Aleppo province on Monday.—AFP
TURKIYE-backed Syrian fighters man a mortar in Jarabulus, near the border with Turkiye, in the rebel-held north of Syria’s Aleppo province on Monday.—AFP

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday threatened to launch a ground operation into Syria after cross-border air strikes on Kurdish positions and deadly fire on Turkey.

“There is no question that this operation be limited to only an aerial operation,” Erdogan told reporters on a flight home from Qatar after attending the opening of the World Cup. The Turkish leader has threatened a new military operation into northern Syria since May.

Overnight, Turkey hit dozens of targets in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq, a week after an Istanbul bomb attack killed six people and which Ankara blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kurdish groups and authorities have denied responsibility for the Nov 13 bombing, which also wounded 81 people, and which revived bitter memories of a wave of attacks in Turkey between 2015 and 2017.

Rocket fire from Syrian territory on Monday killed at least three people, including a child, in Turkey’s border town of Karkamis, said interior minister Suleyman Soylu.

Soylu vowed a “strong response.” “Competent authorities, our defence ministry and chief of staff will together decide the level of force that should be used by our ground forces,” Erdogan said.

“We have already warned that we will make those who violate our territory pay.”

Funerals

Turkey’s raids, mainly targeting positions held by Kurdish forces in northern and northeastern Syria, killed at least 35 people and wounded 70 others, according to the British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Ankara said the targeted Kurdish bases were being used to launch “terrorist” attacks on Turkish soil.

On Monday, thousands of people gathered to bury 11 people who died in Al-Malikiyah in Syria’s far northeast, including a journalist working for a Kurdish news agency, with the caskets draped in red-white-and-green Kurdish flags.

“We urge the world, all those who care about human rights and the great powers” to press Turkey to stop its strikes that “target us with planes and drones”, a mourner named Shaaban, 58, said during the funerals.

In Berlin, the German foreign ministry urged Turkey to “react proportionally and to respect international law”, adding that “civilians at all times must be protected”.

SOHR said Kurdish fighters and Syrian soldiers bore the brunt of the casualties during the attacks in the areas of Raka and Hassake in the northeast and Aleppo in the north.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), among those attacked, said Turkey launched new air strikes on Monday.

The strikes also targeted PKK bases in mountainous northern Iraq and bases of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, the Turkish defence ministry said.

The PKK has waged a bloody insurgency for decades and is designated a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

‘70 planes and drones’

Ankara considers the YPG to be a PKK-affiliated terror group. Erdogan said “70 planes and drones” that “penetrated 140 kilometres into northern Iraq and 20 kilometres into northern Syria” carried out the the weekend strikes.

An SDF spokesperson said that Turkish airplanes launched fresh strikes on Monday near Kobani. The SOHR confirmed the strikes. The SDF said a regime forces’ position was hit.

On Monday, there was artillery exchange between Turkish forces backed by Syrian proxies and the SDF, according to a correspondent.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

1971 in retrospect
Updated 28 Nov, 2022

1971 in retrospect

The point of no return came when the military launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971.
Gender-based violence
28 Nov, 2022

Gender-based violence

IT is a war without boundaries and seemingly without end. A UN report on femicide released on Nov 25, the...
Battle against dacoits
28 Nov, 2022

Battle against dacoits

THE Punjab police is clearly fighting a formidable, and so far losing, battle against the criminal gangs based in ...
Policy rate hike
Updated 27 Nov, 2022

Policy rate hike

The decision to hike the policy rate by 100bps is a step in the right direction, even if intended to appease the IMF.
Vawda’s reprieve
27 Nov, 2022

Vawda’s reprieve

FAISAL Vawda should be relieved. After years of running from a reckoning for submitting a false declaration in his...
Gujarat’s ghosts
27 Nov, 2022

Gujarat’s ghosts

TWO decades have passed since the bloody Gujarat riots, one of the worst spasms of anti-Muslim violence witnessed in...