Syria has censured Turkey’s fresh attacks against the Arab country as “occupation,” pledging to use “all possible means” to deal with it.
In a Saturday statement, the General Command of the Syrian army said that the presence of Turkish troops on Syria’s soil was unacceptable and a “dangerous escalation and flagrant breach of Syria's sovereignty.”
The statement came after activists and local officials said Turkish tanks and Turkey-backed militants were marching toward the northern Syrian town of Tal Rif'at, which is largely controlled by Kurdish forces.
Fighting has also been reported between Turkey-backed militants and Kurdish fighters near the town.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s military confirmed on Saturday that its rockets had targeted Kurdish fighters in northern Syria for the second time in less than 72 hours. The strikes hit 70 positions of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria on Friday.
Ankara views YPG and its allied Democratic Union Party (PYD) as terrorist forces linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated regions for decades.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that the country would be expanding its operations in north Syria, including entering the cities of al-Bab, Manbij and Raqqah.
Erdogan claimed that Turkey “had no choice” but to enter al-Bab, despite criticism from the international community, “because we need to prepare an area purged from terrorism. The same goes for Manbij.”
He added that if the so-called US-led coalition was ready to act jointly, Turkey would do “whatever is necessary’ against the Daesh terrorist group in Raqqah but would not work with the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Turkey has been hitting Kurdish positions in northern Syria in the recent past without acquiring permission from the government in Damascus. Turkey has also been pounding Kurds in Iraq, which is also unhappy with the Turkish military operations on its soil.
On August 24, Turkish special forces, tanks and jets backed by planes from the US-led coalition launched their first coordinated offensive in Syria. On the same day, Damascus denounced the intervention as a breach of its sovereignty.
Turkey said the incursion was meant to engage the Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the Syrian-Turkish border area as well as Kurdish fighters, who were themselves fighting Daesh.
Turkey has long been criticized for refusing to seriously fight Takfiri terrorists. The country stands accused of allowing potential militants to use its territory for travel and shipment of arms into Syria and buying smuggled oil from terrorists.