BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:30 P.M.) – According to a statement released by a commander within the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the YPG is apparently preparing to undertake an offensive against Turkey-led forces in northwestern Syria. The objective of the Kurdish operation, as stated by YPG commander Sipan Hemo, will be to capture the large towns of Azaz and Jarablus in the northern part of Aleppo Governonate.
This statement comes amid escalating tensions between Ankara and Kurdish militias based in Syria. Several days ago, Turkish artillery heavily shelled YPG positions throughout Kurdish-controlled Afrin Canton in Syria. Since at least one week ago Ankara began to deploy considerable quantities of military equipment (tanks, armoured personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery) near the Turkish-Syrian border and in the areas of northern Syria held by its proxy forces in preparation for an offensive to sweep YPG forces from the eastern parts of Afrin Canton.
Considering that the bulk of the YPG’s offensive formations and heavy firepower is currently engaged in the area of Raqqa city as part of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operation to seize the provincial capital from ISIS, it seems highly unlikely that such an offensive, as announced by Kurdish military authorities, will actually take place.
It is worth mentioning at this point that there is conflicting information as to whether Russian security forces stationed in Afrin Canton (represented by a military base in the town of Kafr Jana) are withdrawing their presence from the region or reinforcing it. In any case, the de-escalation of heightened tensions between Ankara and the YPG over the Afrin area, if it is to happen, will likely come down to Russian mediation.