Turkish PM vows to continue Syria military operations

AP News
Posted: Aug 26, 2016 11:44 AM
Turkish PM vows to continue Syria military operations

ISTANBUL (AP) — Kurdish-led forces in Syria said they have come under artillery shelling in northern Aleppo Friday from the Turkish military for the second straight day, as Ankara continued its campaign to push the group back from its border areas.

The Turkish prime minister vowed in remarks Friday to continue military operations in Syria until there is no longer any "terror" threat to Turkey from its war-torn neighbor.

Ankara this week sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels retake the Islamic State-held town of Jarablus and contain the expansion of Syria's Kurds in an area bordering Turkey. The dramatic escalation was also a reflection of Ankara's growing concern over increasing Kurdish clout and ambition in Syria and at home. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters seized the town of Manbij from IS militants earlier this month, raising concerns they would advance toward Jarablus along the border with Turkey.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the Syrian Kurdish militia's goal is to carve out a separate state — a "dream" he insists "they will never achieve."

He said the Turkish cross-border operation would continue until, "We ensure 100 percent our border security and the life and property of our people."

Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces' local group in Manbij, said artillery shelling on Amarneh village, south of Jarablus, continued Friday. "The shelling from Turkish artillery is continuing," he told The Associated Press in an exchange of Whatsapp messages from Manbij.

He said another village to the west also came under attack late Wednesday but said it was not clear if it was from Turkish-backed forces or from Islamic State militants. He said chemical gas was used in the attack.

Turkish officials said artillery shelled Kurdish fighters for allegedly ignoring warnings to retreat from the village, where they had advanced a day earlier.

Ankara has demanded that the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, pull back east of the Euphrates River. YPG spokesman Redur Khalil said in a statement Friday that his forces have pulled back from west of the river. He didn't say where to but added "no one can take as a pretext the YPG presence west of the River Euphrates in Manbij to attack it."

The river crosses from Turkey into Syria at Jarablus. The town was seized by Turkish-backed rebels Wednesday while Kurdish-backed forces advanced to its south, briefly clashing with the advancing forces.