The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied Kurdish groups are on alert in areas under their control in northern Syria, fearing a Turkish military campaign in the region, a war monitor reported on Saturday.
The SDF and the Kurdish military councils in northern and northeastern Syria are on alert amid “suspicious” Turkish military moves just hundreds of meters on the Turkish side of the border from the Kurdish-controlled town of Ayn al-Arab in the northern countryside of Aleppo province in northern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based watchdog group said the Kurdish forces have fears of a Turkish military campaign in Syria’s eastern Euphrates River region and Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria just a day after Turkish-backed rebels have merged under the umbrella of the so-called National Army rebel formation.
On Friday, so-called “moderate” Turkish-backed rebel groups came together under the umbrella of the National Army in what was seen as a move by Turkey to isolate the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and its umbrella group of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as part of a deal with Russia to eliminate all terror-labeled groups in northern Syria, mainly in the northwestern province of Idlib.
While Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, deems the Nusra Front as a terror group, and Turkey also deems the Kurdish-led groups as terrorists, which sparked fears among the Kurdish forces that their turn might come amid the Turkish military moves near the border.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed his strongest warning yet, threatening to launch a military operation against the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia groups in northeastern Syria.
The Kurdish-controlled areas also contain U.S. troops amid U.S. efforts to defuse the tension between Turkey and the Kurdish militiamen.
In August, the U.S. and Turkey agreed to have joint patrols into designated Kurdish areas near the Turkish border as a prelude to imposing a safe zone.
In his speech on Saturday, Erdogan said the deal with the United States to secure the border with Turkey was faltering.
For its side, the SDF warned on Saturday against a Turkish military campaign in northern Syria, saying that any Turkish military campaign would open the way for a massive war and undermine the security situation in northern Syria, according to the observatory.
Turkey sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and its SDF as separatists and terrorists, citing their links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU.
The Kurdish militia forces have been controlling areas in northern Syria since the early years of the crisis in Syria, in order to force Damascus to recognize a federal rule or autonomy for the Kurds in northern Syria.
However, Syrian government officials repeatedly said that Kurdish federalization in Syria or self-rule is out of the question.