Turkish forces deployed to citadel overlooking Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton

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A picture taken on October 13, 2017, shows the Kurdish town of Jindayris near the Syrian-Turkish border, west of the city of Afrin. Turkey-backed Syrian rebels are preparing for an operation to oust jihadists from the northwestern province of Idlib. Early this week, Turkey's army said it had launched a reconnaissance mission in Idlib days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an incursion to oust Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate from the area. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour

Turkish military forces, in an attempt to establish observation posts in de-confliction zones in Syria, were deployed to a citadel on Simeon Mountain, which overlooks the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)-controlled Afrin canton in east Aleppo province, the Habertürk daily reported on Thursday.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is continuing to deploy troops and armored vehicles to Idlib as part of a possible operation in Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton. The Turkish forces that had already been deployed in the village of Salve have now also been deployed in the town of Darat Izza. Eighty soldiers were deployed to the Simeon Citadel, located in the rural part of western Aleppo province. According to the report PYD forces are settled only a few kilometers from the citadel.

In light of recent developments, the PYD-controlled Afrin canton has been besieged from all sides by threatening elements, namely Turkey and Sunni opposition groups in Syria. TSK troops are deployed in Turkey’s Hatay province to the west of Afrin and in Kilis province to its north. It was also reported that Afrin is possibly about to be attacked by Turkish forces under an order from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan on Tuesday said Turkey has to a great extent completed its operation in the Syrian province of Idlib, saying Afrin province, controlled by Kurdish militants, will be the next target, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The operation in Idlib has been completed to a great extent. We have Afrin next on our agenda. We will not give concessions in those regions,” said Erdoğan during his party group meeting in Parliament.

Turkish troops on Oct. 13 entered Idlib as part of the Astana agreement and started establishing observation posts and carrying out reconnaissance activities in the north of Idlib and south of Afrin while maintaining contacts with Sunni opposition element that control the region.

Turkey with Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces took control of the Jarablus and Al Bab areas in northern Syria during an operation against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants between August 2016, and March 2017.

More than 70 soldiers were lost during Operation Euphrates Shield, which was evaluated as a strategic move to prevent unification of areas controlled by the Syrian Kurdish PYD.

Erdoğan on Oct. 8 said Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean while assessing Turkish military operations in the Idlib region of Syria.

The Turkish president on Aug. 23 said the PYD was trying to create a corridor to the Mediterranean in northern Syria, warning that Turkey would not allow this whatever the cost.

Afrin is indeed a PYD project to reach the Mediterranean Sea. We will not permit a terror corridor in northern Syria having access to the Mediterranean. We will intervene whatever the cost,” said Erdoğan.

Erdoğan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, also said on Oct. 6 that Turkey would not hesitate to carry out a military operation in Syria’s Afrin region, which is under the control of People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, the armed branch of the PYD.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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