Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and other senior officials have made clear that their aerial incursion is as much about pushing away Islamic State (IS) as it is about preventing Kurdish forces from filling the void as IS forces withdraw.
Turkey wants to stop Kurdish forces gaining control of a continuous stretch of territory along its southern border, which Ankara fears could be used to support the Kurdish militant group, the PKK, that is fighting an insurgency on Turkish soil.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have extended their control beyond Jarablus, seizing five nearby villages from Islamic State, Turkish security sources said, adding that the Turkish Red Crescent has distributed food in Jarablus since Friday.
RIVALRIES AND ALLIANCES
The Jarablus Military Council said that the village of al-Amarna, which lies a few km south of Jarablus, was hit by warplanes today. In response to the Turkish strike, it said: “If they do not attack our forces, then we will keep the border strip secure.”
The newly formed Jarablus Military Council has said it was made up of people from the area with the aim of capturing the town and the surrounding region from Islamic State militants. However, the Turkish-backed rebels seized Jarablus first.
The Jarablus Military Council has aligned itself with the SDF, which encompasses several militias including Arabs and the Kurdish YPG group.
The SDF alliance is backed by the United States, putting Ankara at odds with its NATO ally in Syria, complicating a multi-faceted conflict that has raged on for five years now. A complex web of rivalries and alliances has emerged from what began with an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, drawing in world powers and regional states.
On Thursday, a day after Turkey began its cross-border offensive, Turkish troops fired on US-backed YPG forces. Turkey’s state news agency described that salvo as consisting of only warning shots, though the use of Turkish warplanes against an SDF-aligned group points to tougher action.
A Reuters witness in Karkamis heard blasts and smoke rising from the nearby Syrian village of Kivircik.
Several militias under the SDF banner pledged support to the Jarablus Military Council after it reported the Turkish bombin. Moreover, the ‘Northern Sun Battalion’, an SDF faction, said in a statement that it was heading to the “Jarablus fronts” to help the military council against “threats made by factions belonging to Turkey”.
Tensions have mounted in Syria’s Aleppo region over the past year between the US-backed Kurdish YPG and its allies on one hand and Turkish-backed rebel groups on the other, and the two sides have clashed on several occasions.