The commander of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has said that Turkey is preparing to conduct a "ground offensive" in the Arab country, as Ankara’s aggression against northern Syria over the past week has halted the Kurdish-led militants' attacks on remnants of the Daesh terrorist group.
Mazloum Abdi made the remarks in an online news conference in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah on Saturday.
Turkey is taking advantage of the deadly November 13 bombing in Istanbul to target the US-backed Kurdish militants and after nearly a week of Turkish airstrikes on northern Syria, Ankara is preparing for a “ground attack” to inflict severe damage on the region’s infrastructure, Abdi said.
“The Turkish state’s goal is to destroy the infrastructure of this region to pave the way for a ground attack,” Abdi said, adding, “The Turkish state is preparing itself for a ground attack. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan repeatedly says that they want to attack Kobane, Manbij, and Shahba. Also, they are preparing their forces on the ground - the Syrian groups affiliated to them - for an attack.”
Turkey blames Kurdish militants for the blast on Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue on November 13, which killed six people and injured more than 80.
Last week, the Turkish military carried out a series of airstrikes across the Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Hasakah, targeting several towns and villages throughout those provinces following the Istanbul attack.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said it carried out airstrikes on the outlawed Kurdish militant bases in northern Syria, which it said were used to carry out attacks on Turkey. It added that the strikes targeted bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militants, which Turkey regards as a wing of the PKK.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Istanbul blast and both the PKK and the YPG have denied involvement in it.
During the online news conference, the SDF commander said the Turkish military’s airstrikes in northern Syria had stopped the Kurdish-led militants from carrying out operations against the remnants of Daesh in the area.
“The forces that work symbolically with the international coalition in the fight against Daesh are now targets for the Turkish state and therefore anti-Daesh military operations have stopped,” Abdi said.
Last week, the commander of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces warned of a “major catastrophe” following the Turkish aggression, and said Ankara's bombing of the “safe” areas of northern Syria threaten the whole region.
Ankara to start 'ground offensive' soon
Turkish media reported on Sunday that the country’s military would “soon” launch a cross-border offensive in Syria’s northern region.
Turkish daily Yeni Safak cited Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as saying in a secret meeting that Turkey will “soon” start a “ground operation” in Syria’s north.
Erdogan vowed on Tuesday to launch the country's fourth illegal ground operation in Syria "soon," the most direct threat of the kind he has issued since May when he started warning of such an invasion.
Turkey has since 2016 conducted three illegal incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish militants and has deployed forces there in violation of the Arab country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ankara-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019 after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push YPG fighters away from border areas.
Ankara views the YPG, which controls swathes of Syria's northern border region, as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials have said Damascus will respond through all legitimate means available to Turkey's ongoing ground offensive.