PHOTO: Smoke rises from Turkish attacks on Kurdish positions in northwest Syria on Wednesday
- Tiger Forces Commander Killed — Was He Shot by Pro-Assad Militia?
- Picture: London Rally for People of Aleppo
- US Defense Secretary Meets Turkish Leaders
- Another White Helmets Rescuer Killed — Total Now 148
UPDATE 1610 GMT: The Syrian military has said it will confront any Turkish intervention as an “occupation force”.
The General Command said in a statement that the Turkish Government is playing a “dirty role” in the Syrian conflict with airstrikes and support of rebels with artillery and tanks.
It asserted that regime forces will confront the Turks “with all the means available”.
UPDATE 1545 GMT: The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) has declared that the Turkish State is waging a war on Kurds, appealing to “all democratic powers to escalate resistance against the Turkish occupation”.
The KCK claimed that the AKP, the ruling Turkish party, has supported the Islamic State in the killing of thousands of people: “Turkey is majorly responsible for the ongoing annihilation war running in Syria because of its policies in Syria and the Middle East, aiming to undermine Rojava [Kurdistan] revolution.”
UPDATE 1530 GMT: The Turkish military says it has hit 70 Kurdish militia and 52 Islamic State targets in the past 24 hours.
The military said five Free Syrian Army fighters were wounded during attack to retake two villages northwest of al-Bab, the key ISIS-held town northeast of Aleppo. It did not say whether the villages are controlled by the Kurdish militia YPG or the Islamic State.
It added that the YPG attacked the FSA south of Jarablus, killing two people.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Turkish-supported rebels launched an offensive against Kurdish militia on Friday, further complicating a four-way war in northwest Syria.
The rebel units — including the Free Syrian Army and backed by Turkish artillery — launched the assaults against the Kurdish YPG on a 12-km (7.5-mile) front near the villages of Bir as-Sabah and Umm Housh.
The rebel assault began on Thursday with the capture of a few villages that were briefly taken by a YPG-allied Arab faction, Jaish al-Thuwar, from the Islamic State. Friday’s advance was southeast of the town of Tel Rifaat, captured by the YPG in February from the rebels. Earlier this week, FSA fighters promised to retake the town, giving the YPG 48 hours to withdraw.
Map by Yalla Souriya
Turkey carried out its first airstrikes, alongside shelling, of YPG positions on Wednesday. The Turkish military claimed that 160 to 200 Kurdish fighters were killed.
On Friday, at least 90 Turkish rockets supported the offensive.
Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia — which leads the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria — as part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought Turkish forces for more than 30 years.
The PYD accused the US, despite its backing of the SDF, of joining the Turkish-rebel attacks: “Informed sources confirmed that the Turkey-backed attacks on SDF positions today were supported by American officers.”
Rebels Try to Reverse Battle in Northwest
The YPG and rebels have clashed since last year, notably in the Sheikh Maqsoud area of Aleppo city.
However, at the start of 2016 the YPG stepped up the battle with the capture of rebel territory in northern Aleppo Province, including Tel Rifaat. The Kurdish militia briefly threatened the important town of Azaz, on the Turkish-Syrian border, before Turkey stepped in with shelling.
The Syrian opposition also accuses the YPG of aiding Russia and the Assad regime in the siege of opposition areas of Aleppo city, helping cut off the Castello road to the north in late July.
A few weeks later, Turkey intervened for the first time with airstrikes, tanks, and special forces alongside the rebels in northern Syria. The offensive quickly gained ground against the Islamic State, raising the prospect of an eventual battle for territory with the YPG as well as the Assad regime.
Both Turkey and rebels have signaled their intention to capture al-Bab, an ISIS-held town northeast of Aleppo which is within 20 km (12.5 miles) of Kurdish frontlines and 10 km (6 miles) of regime positions.
Tiger Forces Commander Killed — Was He Shot by Pro-Assad Militia?
A commander in the prominent paramilitary Tiger Forces, Wassim Jolaq, has died after being shot during an “altercation” in Tartous Province in western Syria.
Jolaq’s brother was wounded in the confrontation.
Pro-rebel outlets claim the commander was killed by other pro-Assad forces:
Regime infighting: Tiger Forces group leader Wassim Jowlaq killed in gun battle with regime shabiha in al-Areed, Tartus pic.twitter.com/klFPTwqIpT
— FSA News (@FSAPlatform) October 22, 2016
Picture: London Rally for People of Aleppo
A rally in London calling for an end to the bombing of civilians in Aleppo:
Demonstrators delivered a letter to Number 10, the UK Prime Minister’s residence, demanding that Theresa May take action to help end the Russian-regime attacks.
US Defense Secretary Meets Turkish Leaders
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has met Turkish leaders in Ankara, discussing both the Syrian crisis and the offensive on Mosul in Iraq.
Turkey has presented Washington with new challenges in both conflicts. Ankara wants to be part of the attempt to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq’s second city, and it is now supporting Syrian rebels in attacks on the Kurdish militia YPG as well as ISIS.
Carter met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Defense Minister Fikri Işık on Friday.
Turkish sources played up agreement in the talks, saying that Carter told Işık that the US wants “Turkey to participate in an anti-ISIS operation in Iraq and Syria” and that “both countries always have a consensus on principles”: “Methods toward the aim could vary but that two allies could overcome those differences through joint efforts.”
The sources did not mention the Turkish airstrikes which began on Wednesday against the Kurdish YPG. However, they said Ankara urged the US to force YPG to withdraw east of Manbij, the ISIS center in Aleppo Province which the Kurdish-led and US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces captured in early August.
Yildirim insisted, “The U.S. Secretary of Defense showed that he is behind his words and he confirmed that no YPG/PYD elements will be left in Minbij.”
The Prime Minister repeated Ankara’s line, “We regard the YPG and PYD as similar to the [Turkish Kurdish insurgency] PKK. Supplying arms to these forces and strategic alliances with them in the fight against ISIL is a great mistake. We express that.”
Regarding the Mosul offensive, Carter urged reconciliation between Ankara and Baghdad, according to the Turkish sources.
The Iraqi Government demanded that Turkish forces leave the base in Bashiqa, north of Mosul, just before the start of the Iraqi-Kurdish offensive against ISIS on Monday.
Another White Helmets Rescuer Killed — Total Now 148
Another White Helmets civil defense volunteer has been killed by Russia-regime attacks.
Mohammed Osama died while on duty in Aleppo Province. He is the 148th White Helmet slain since 2013.
Two other rescuers were injured.