Erdogan promised a land invasion of Syria, the Kurds are preparing a response

QAMISHLI, Syria — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday promised to order a ground invasion targeting Kurdish groups in northern Syria amid years of border violence and repeated Turkish interventions.

Turkey has launched airstrikes against suspected militant targets in Syria and northern Iraq in recent days in response to a deadly explosion in Istanbul on November 13, which Ankara blamed on Kurdish groups. The groups denied involvement in the explosion.

Ankara’s allies, notably Russia, have tried to prevent ground intervention, but Erdogan told ruling party lawmakers in Ankara on Wednesday that the airstrikes were “just the beginning” and that Turkey was “determined to close all our weapons.” southern borders … with a security strip that will prevent the possibility of an attack on our country.”

Turkey has carried out a series of incursions into Syria since 2016 and already controls parts of northern Syria. Erdogan said that the new military offensive, which is planned to be carried out “at the most convenient time for us”, will target the areas of Tel Rifat, Manbij and Kobani, also known as Ain Al Arabi, also known in Arabic.

“The day is near when the concrete tunnels used by terrorists for security will become their graves,” he said.

Meanwhile, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurds in northeastern Syria, said that his group is ready to defeat Turkey’s land invasion.

SDF chief Mazlum Abdi told the Associated Press that his group is preparing for the next such attack after Turkey launched a ground offensive in the region in 2019, and “We believe that we have reached the level where we can prevent any new attack. At least the Turks will not be able to invade our territories any more and there will be a big battle.”

He added that if Turkey attacks any region, the war will spread to all regions… and everyone will suffer.

After weekend airstrikes, suspected Kurdish militants fired rockets into Turkish territory from the Syrian border on Monday, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others, Turkish officials said. Abdi denied that the SDF launched attacks on Turkish territory.

Alexander Lavrentyev, the representative of the Russian president in Syria, said that Turkey should “show some restraint” in order to prevent tensions in Syria, and hoped that “it will be possible to convince our Turkish partners to refrain from using excessive force on the territory of Syria.” ”

Mazlum called on Moscow and Damascus, as well as the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group allied with Kurdish fighters in Syria, to take a stronger stance to prevent a Turkish ground invasion. the move could harm efforts to combat the resurgence of IS.

“We can say that our work against ISIS with the international coalition has stopped because we are busy with Turkey’s attacks,” he said. “The coordination and our work on the ground with the Russians was also affected by the attacks of Turkey.”

Turkey’s airstrikes, which killed a number of Syrian army soldiers operating in the same region as SDF forces, also threatened to derail the nascent rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara. Although the two are opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, they have begun low-level talks in recent months.

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Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Ghaith Alsayed in Idlib, Syria contributed to this report. Sewell reported from Beirut.