[Editor’s note: In a truly perplexing war that has defied analysis, we have yet another incident that on the face of it, makes little sense. Turkey is supposed to be fighting against ISIS, part of the US-NATO coalition, after all, Turkey is a NATO member. So why is Turkey bombing the Kurds who are also part of that coalition and actively fighting ISIS?
The Syrian government has reacted by issuing a clear warning that should Turkey attempt to bomb the Kurds in Syria again, it would shoot down those Turkish planes. However, neither Russia nor the US has spoken a single syllable about this incident.
Why the silence? That is the key question here, why are the world’s two most powerful military powers keeping quiet? The disturbing conclusion from the scant available facts is that Turkey has something it is holding over the heads of both the US and Russia in order to blackmail them into allowing Turkey to act as it pleases.
Another set of events supports this conclusion – the ongoing offensive to liberate Mosul in Iraq where the Turks and their Peshmerga Kurdish allies seem to be making a mockery of Iraq’s long laid plans and are likely to seize Mosul themselves, much to Iraq’s disgust… Ian]
The Turkish military announced on Thursday that its jets had targeted 18 positions of the Kurdish YPG forces north of Aleppo, killing 160 to 200 fighters.
Ankara said in a statement that the air strikes were carried out in response to five shells fired from the Kurdish city of Afrin into Turkish territory near Hatay.
The military said in a statement, according to Hurriyet, “Some 160 to 200 fighters of the Kurdish YPG militia group have been killed in 26 airstrikes conducted by the Turkish Air Force on Wednesday night,”
Turkish forces and fighter jets have been supporting Syrian Free Army (FSA) in recent weeks in their fight against ISIS and the YPG in parts of the country.
YPG has been supported by the US against ISIS in the last two years and Washington has urged both Ankara and YPG leadership to avoid clashes or escalation of violence between them in Syria.
Damascus has reacted harshly to the bombing of Kurdish militias in northern Syria on Thursday morning by Turkey’s air force, vowing to intervene next time Ankara sends its planes over its border.
In a statement, the Syrian Defense Ministry accused Turkey of “flagrant aggression, which targeted innocent citizens,” saying that it considers it “a dangerous development that could escalate the situation.”
“Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available,” warned Damascus, whose planes, which have flown in concert with a Russian expeditionary force, have been avoiding direct confrontation with unauthorized NATO jets.
Turkish artillery guns have been firing at Kurdish militias, who are now fighting against Ankara-backed rebels over territory won back from Islamic State in northern Turkey on Wednesday. Turkey said that the airstrikes took out up to 200 Kurds, though the YPG, the Kurdish militia, initially put its losses at 15.
Syria called the victims “150 innocent civilians” and said that “these irresponsible acts will have dire consequences that will threaten the region’s stability and security.”
The US, Turkey’s NATO ally, has meanwhile distanced itself from the airstrikes, with State Department spokesperson John Kirby tweeting on Thursday that “contrary to some reports, US was not involved in Turkey airstrikes last night.”
Kirby added that US “called on all parties on the ground to avoid uncoordinated movements,” adding that they “only benefit” Islamic State terrorists.
Turkish aerial incursions into Syria have grown more frequent, as fighting has intensified around Aleppo, with at least four factions vying to take control of northern Syria, all with their own agendas.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, tensions have been on the rise between the two neighboring countries, with Ankara backing armed rebels opposing the legitimate Syrian government. On several occasions, shelling from heavy fighting spilled over the border and into Turkey, further inflaming the situation.
In June 2012, Syria downed a Turkish military jet on reconnaissance mission over Syrian territorial waters 1 kilometer from its coast. While Syria insisted that it was acting in defense of its borders, Ankara accused it of breaching international law. Turkey later confirmed that the jet did enter into Syrian airspace by mistake but claimed that it was shot down in international airspace after it had left Syrian territory.
In August, the Turkish army supported by Syrian rebels launched a ground intervention into Syrian territory, aiming to liberate the Kurdish border town of Jarablus from Islamic State, which had held the city since July 2013. Damascus condemned the incursion as a violation of its sovereignty, while the Kurds accused Turkey of unleashing a “war” on Kurdish militias who wanted to retake the town from terrorists.