ANKARA: On Sunday, Turkey reported that its military had killed 15 Syrian Kurdish YPG militia militants who it said were planning to carry out an assault in an area of northeastern Syria occupied by Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies.
Turkey captured a 120-km (75-mile) stretch of border territory in northeast Syria from the YPG in an offensive last year called the Peace Spring Campaign, which it considers a terrorist group connected to the banned militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
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“A heavy blow to the PKK/YPG terrorist group was dealt by our brave commandos. With the successful intervention of our commandos, fifteen PKK/YPG terrorists attempting to infiltrate the Peace Spring area from the south to carry out an assault were neutralised, the Ministry of Defense of Turkey said on Twitter.
After negotiating agreements with Russia and the United States, Turkey halted its offensive, which was widely condemned by Ankara’s Western allies because the YPG was a key US ally in the war against the militant Islamic State group.
Moscow reported that the YPG had withdrawn at least 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Turkey’s border, but Ankara was suspicious and held out the prospect of new attacks if the militants remained. Among the key issues between Ankara and Washington, NATO allies, has been US support for the YPG.
Turkey is helping rebels aiming to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia and Iran are supporting Assad’s forces. Since 2016, in four cross-border offensives to push back the IS and the YPG and avoid a fresh influx of refugees from Syria, Turkey has captured swathes of northern Syria.