Turkish airstrike kills at least 36 inside Syria

March 5, 2018

Turkish airstrike kills at least 36 inside Syria Orlok / Shutterstock.com

The Syrian civil war has been going on for almost seven years, and there’s still no end in sight. The U.S. has chosen to back the Kurdish militia controlling much of northeastern Syria, called the People’s Protection Units (YPG), putting it at odds with several other factions and countries in the area.

Turkey is also involved in the conflict and has vowed to crush the YPG. On Saturday, Turkish aircraft hit northeastern Syria, targeting pro-government forces and killing at least 36.

A Deadly Attack with Long-Term Consequences

The Turkish airstrikes were meant to clear all Kurdish groups from the region of Afrin. They’re part of a bigger offensive that began in January—an operation that the Syrian government says is a “blatant attack” on its national sovereignty.

The government, led by Bashar al-Assad, sent in forces to help back the YPG. Turkey, however, sent aircraft to engage those forces on Syrian territory, and has already had troops on the ground there.

Last week marked a bloody time for Turkish troops; 8 soldiers were killed and 13 were injured in the battles in Afrin. The airstrikes are thought to be a counter to those losses.

Turkey’s attack puts the Middle Eastern country at direct odds with the United States, its NATO ally. The attack could increase tensions at the NATO table, leading to peripheral issues with other nations as well.

What is Going On Over There?

Turkey says the YPG is simply another reincarnation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the country has been fighting for decades. The Workers’ Party has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey; Erdogan says the YPG is just more of the same.

The Turkish president said the U.S., under President Donald Trump, is “creating a terror army” and said that Turkey would do what was necessary to “suffocate” it.

The United States, however, has continued to back the Kurdish militia with air strikes that helped the YPG drive militant Islamic State fighters from the area. The YPG says it has nothing to do with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The ongoing war has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes and go to Europe, demanding asylum. The large majority end up in Germany, but many are arriving in Greece by the sea route in poorly constructed boats.

President Trump has not responded publicly to the news of the Turkish attacks.

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Kit Perez

Kit Perez is a Conservative Institute contributor. She is an intelligence analyst with a dual specialty in counterintelligence and HUMINT. She writes on national security, tech, and privacy issues. Kit has a B.A. in Counterintelligence and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies from American Military University.