Turkish military forces attacked positions of the People's Defense Units (YPG) at the Syrian border town of Gire Spi (Arabic: Tal Abyad), the Kurdish militia reported Oct. 25. Two fire-fights of two hours each were reported over the night. There was no mention of casualties on either side, but the development raises fears that Turkey is moving to establish its "buffer zone" in what is now the Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava in northern Syria.
The YPG previously accused Turkish forces of shelling the Kurdish-held village of Zur Maghar in Aleppo with tank-fire in July, a claim denied by the Turkish government. "Instead of targeting ISIS terrorist occupied positions, Turkish forces attack our defenders' positions," the YPG said at the time. "We urge [the] Turkish leadership to halt this aggression and to follow international guidelines. We are telling the Turkish army to stop shooting at our fighters and their positions."
The YPG has receieved support from the US, and is currently prepraring a new offensive against ISIS. But the YPG says it is still awaiting arms promised by the US for the offensive. "We haven't received weapons yet," said YPG fighter Heval Serfiraz, at a militia base close to the town of Ayn al-Issa, speaking to Middle East Eye. "The last time the US supported us with weapons was one year ago in Kobani, but they have promised them." Kobani is the border town where the Kurds successfully resisted an ISIS siege last year.
"We don't have heavy weapons like the Islamic state. We just have Kalashnikovs and Doskhas. IS weapons are much better than the YPG," he said. "We need anti-tank weapons and heavy weapons."
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reacted angrily to US weapons drops to the YPG last October. "As the ally countries would not tolerate excuses for arms support to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, Turkey cannot excuse any armed support to groups linked to the PKK. It certainly cannot allow any tolerance in this matter," Davutoglu said. (Of course the YPG is militantly secular and has no links to al-Qaeda.)
Analyst Micha'el Tanchum in Foreign Affairs notes that the YPG is linked to the PYD Kurdish political party, in turn in the political orbit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which seeks autonomy in the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey. He writes: "The goal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP government is clear. They want to unravel the partnership between the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the United States. US-supported PYD victories against ISIS have enabled the party to build a contiguous stretch of territory in northern Syria, which runs from Kobani to the Iraqi border… Facing the prospect of the PYD joining its third canton to this corridor to form an autonomous Kurdish region, called Rojava, along Turkey's southern border, Turkey's president had to act." (MEE, Oct. 26)