Sabtu , 08 July 2017, 22:00 WIB

Syrian rebels say preparing to join Turkish assault on Kurds

Red: Reiny Dwinanda
aljazeerah
Syrian rebels. (Illustration)
Syrian rebels. (Illustration)

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, BEIRUT -- Syrian rebels said on Friday they were preparing to join the Turkish military in a major new offensive against Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria.

The goal of the battle would be to regain a string of Arab villages in Syria near the Turkish border that were seized last year by Kurdish-led militia fighters, the rebels told Reuters.

"There is a coming extensive joint operation we are preparing with the Turkish army to expel these extremist separatist militias (Kurdish YPG) from our land," Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in the Western and Turkish-backed rebel group Liwa al-Mutasem, said.

Turkey is seeking to contain the Kurdish YPG group in Syria, viewing the force as an extension of Kurdish separatists fighting inside its borders.

Turkey has been pouring tanks, artillery and troops into the Syrian town of Azaz, the last town before the border with Turkey, its Syrian rebel allies say. It marks the biggest deployment of Turkish troops into Syria since Ankara launched a major incursion into northern Syria last year.

The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters on Wednesday that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria amounted to a "declaration of war" which could trigger clashes within days.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to carry out ground operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria along with the rebel forces.

There was no further comment from Ankara, or from Washington, on Friday.

The tensions threaten to pitch two U.S. allies - the YPG and NATO-member Turkey - into a conflict against each other that could derail the U.S.-backed assault on Islamic State's base of operations at Raqqa. The YPG is spearheading the attack on Raqqa.

The main goal of the military operation is to recapture Tel Rifaat, a town southwest of Azaz that the YPG militia captured from rebels in February, 2016.

Tel Rifaat and nearby areas including the Menigh air base fell to the YPG as the rebels were trying to fend off a major assault by Syrian government forces backed by the Russian air force and Iranian-backed militias. It was a prelude to the rebels' defeat in eastern Aleppo - their biggest single setback of the war.

The fighting forced at least 150,000 residents of these villages to flee to Azaz. They are currently sheltering in at least five refugee camps at the Turkish border, and securing their return is a major priority for the rebels and Turkey.

Sumber : Antara