Turkey launches airstrikes inside Syria and northern Iraq

Turkey claimed that it was targeting the YPG, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Party (PKK), which it blamed for attacks in Istanbul last week. The PKK has denied any responsibility for the attacks

November 21, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Turkish airstrikes in Syria and Iraq
(Photo: via Anadolu Agency)

The Turkish air force bombed several locations inside Syria and Iraq on Sunday, November 20. Though the total number of civilian casualties is not confirmed, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which control a large part of north-eastern Syria, claimed a death toll of over two dozen including civilians, soldiers, and journalists.   

Turkey claimed that it had launched “operation claw-sword in northern Iraq and Syria.” The Turkish military statement said that the airstrikes were carried out against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Party (PKK), in the region, in line with its right to defend under article 51 of the UN charter. 

Turkey has blamed the PKK for the attacks in Istanbul on November 13 which killed at least six civilians and injured over 80 people. The PKK has issued a statement denying its involvement in the Istanbul attack, claiming that “we would not target civilians directly or approve of actions directed at civilians.”

Turkey claimed that the attacks on Sunday destroyed at least 89 “terrorist targets” in Syria and Iraq and “eliminated” several PKK leaders, Sputnik reported. It also quoted local sources saying that at least 25 airstrikes were carried out by the Turkish air force.  

Farhad Shami, head of the SDF media center, disputed the Turkish claims, saying that the airstrikes targeted Syrian government establishments, civilian infrastructure, and villages, including in the city of Kobane (Ayn al Arab), killing soldiers as well as innocent civilians.

Repeated Turkish aggression 

While the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Syria’s official news agency, did not confirm the number of casualties, it reported that “a number of army personnel were martyred in Turkish attacks.” Sputnik reported that at least “three Syrian Arab Army soldiers were killed and several were wounded in Turkish airstrikes on a number of villages in the Al-Hasakah province” in the country’s north-eastern region.  

The SDF also claimed that the Turkish airstrikes targeted villages and camps of displaced Syrians. Millions of Syrians have been displaced due to the war in the country for over a decade now. Most of the displaced in the Kurdish regions in Syria are victims of years of ISIS control, which ended in 2017 following the SDF victory against it.  

The PKK is fighting for better rights for the Kurdish minority in Turkey. However, Turkey and some of its allies, such as the US and the EU, have labeled the group a terrorist organization. The YPG is the military wing of the PKK. SDF, which includes forces from the YPG, was part of the US-led operations against ISIS in the region. The US maintains several bases inside Syrian territories controlled by the SDF and provides it armament and other support. 

Reports also indicated that Turkey may launch a new land incursion inside northern Syria in the coming days. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been making proclamations about the same since May. 

Turkey wants to create a 30 kilometers-deep “buffer zone” along its border inside Syria to prevent alleged “terrorist attacks” from across the border. It has already launched three incursions inside Syria since 2016 and controls a large part of its territory. 

Turkey has also been carrying out a military operation in northern Iraq against the PKK for the last few months, killing scores of people and displacing thousands.