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Turkey carries out air strikes against Kurds in Syria, Iraq after Istanbul bombing

Turkish airforce carried out airstrikes against Kurdish targets in Syria and northern Iraq on Sunday. Turkey has blamed Kurdish militants for the November 11 blast in Istanbul which killed six people. PKK and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces deny involvement in the attack and the latter reported the death of 11 civilians as a result of the airstrikes.

Turkey: blast in Istanbul leaves at least six dead

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Turkey’s defence ministry said that the Turkish airforce struck at destroying 89 targets, in retaliation for a bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six people one week ago.

According to the statement, the strikes targeted bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey says is a wing of the PKK.

Ankara has blamed Kurdish militants for the blast on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue on November 13 that killed six people and injured more than 80. No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion on the busy pedestrian avenue, and the PKK and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied involvement.

“It is time to give account for İstiklal,” Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

İstiklal için hesap zamanı! pic.twitter.com/jv7p1aqcIY

— İbrahim Kalın (@ikalin1) November 20, 2022

“Türkiye has the full sovereign right to determine and eliminate any terrorist threats wherever they may come from,” further tweeted Kalın, adding that “Türkiye conducts its anti-terror operations within international law and will continue to do so with or without the support of its allies.”

Türkiye has the full sovereign right to determine and eliminate any terrorist threats wherever they may come from.

Türkiye conducts its anti-terror operations within international law and will continue to do so with or without the support of its allies.

— İbrahim Kalın (@ikalin1) November 20, 2022

The Turkish air strikes were carried out in Qandil, Asos, and Hakurk in Iraq and Kobani, Tal Rifat, Cizire and Derik in Syria, the ministry said. The 89 targets destroyed included shelters, tunnels and ammunition depots, it said, adding that “many terrorists were neutralised” including “so-called directors of the terrorist organisation”.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement Sunday morning that all necessary measures were taken to avoid damage to innocent people and the surroundings, adding that “only terrorists and structures belonging to terrorists were targeted”.

“The claw of our Turkish Armed Forces was once again on top of terrorists,” he added, dubbing the operation “Claw Sword”.

Kurdish response

In turn, a spokesman for the SDF said that the Turkish strikes had destroyed infrastructure including grain silos, a power station and a hospital. 11 civilians, an SDF fighter, and two guards were killed, said Farhad Shami, head of the SDF media centre on Twitter.

11 civilians were martyred, including one journalist.

— Farhad Shami (@farhad_shami) November 20, 2022

The SDF said in a statement they would retaliate for the strikes. “These attacks by the Turkish occupied [sic] forces will not go without a response,” it said.

Eight security personnel, including seven police officers, were wounded as a result of a rocket attack by the YPG from Syria’s Tal Rifat on a police post near a border gate in Turkey’s Kilis province, the Interior Ministry said.

Separately, a Syrian military source told state media SANA that a number of servicemen had been killed in “Turkish aggression on Syrian land” on Sunday morning, in the countryside near northern Aleppo and Hasaka.

A Gordian knot of cotradictory narratives and goals

Bulgaria detains five suspected of involvement in Istanbul Nov. 13 bombing

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While Turkey accuses the Kurds of being behind the Istanbul blast, Kurdish organisations deny involvement. Turkish Anadolu news agency reported a Turkish court formally arrested two more people on Sunday over last week’s bomb attack after 17 were arrested this week. Bulgarian prosecutors have charged five people for aiding the attack on Saturday.

Ankara also regularly carries out air strikes in northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its offensives against the PKK. The PKK has led an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. It is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

As for the YPG, which Turkey considers a wing of the PKK, Washington has allied with the organisation in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, causing a rift with NATO ally Turkey. In the aftermath of the Istanbul bombing, this can be seen very starkly by a comment of Turkish FM Süleyman Soylu, who said that the U.S.-Turkish alliance has found itself in a controversial situation.

“We reject the condolences of the American embassy, ​​we do not accept it,” FM Soylu told the press. “Our alliance with a state that sends money from its own Senate to these groups, feeding the terror zones in Kobani which aims to disturb Turkey’s peace, is in a controversial situation. This is open and clear,” he concluded.


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