YPG Can Handle IS in Jarablus: AKP prevents it, prefers IS.

ZOR MAGHAR, SYRIA — Kurdish fighter Heval Xeyri, 32, overlooks the Euphrates River three kilometers from the Islamic State, which still controls the border crossing in Jarabulus on the other side of the river with a total of just three men.

A small tent with pictures and carpets of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); the Biblical figure Jesus Christ; and historical Islamic commander Salahuddin are to protect the Kurdish fighters from the winter cold and rain in the village of Zor Maghar.

The Euphrates is the only thing separating the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Islamic State on the Jarabulus frontline. But ISIS militants cannot be seen by the naked eye — they use tunnels and camouflage to hide.

For the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, it’s important for the Kurds to take Jarabulus and the rest of the ISIS-controlled border with Turkey in order to cut off ISIS’s logistical lines to the Turkish border
where the the group still smuggles in foreign fighters.

So far there is no indication that the United States will support any future Kurdish operation to take Jarabulus. But if the Kurds want to take Jarabulus in order to create a contiguous entity by also
connecting their local administrations in Kobani and Afrin, they not only have to face ISIS but also Turkey.

Turkey does not want the YPG to control the entire Syrian-Turkish border after the Kurds defeated ISIS in the border town of Tal Abyad in mid June and connected their two administrations in Kobani and Cizere.

For Turkey, there is no difference between the YPG and the PKK, with which Turkey has been fighting since the 1980s in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. Turkey placed an observation balloon and tanks in the town of Karkamış in order to prevent the Kurds from crossing the river.

“On the hill on the Turkish side there is an observation balloon,” said Francisco Molinar, 25, an American from Phoenix with the YPG who was previously stationed at the Jarabulus frontline. “The YPG told me they can’t cross, and a tank shot at them.”

For Kurds its important to unite the three local administrations they formed in January 2014 on the other side of the Turkish border. “Our main aim is to connect from here [Zor Maghar] all the way to Afrin,” says Xeyri.

The Kurds think that if they control Jarabulus they could easily push ISIS back all the way to Afrin, in Aleppo Governorate, and make a deal with local FSA rebels in Azaz.

Turkey has made it clear to the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army that crossing the border into Jarabulus is a red line.

“Turkey doesn’t want us to connect the Kobani administration with the Afrin canton administration,” says 37-year-old Heval Fathi, who has five children back in Kobani.

The YPG said in an official statement that Turkish Army units attacked YPG positions in Tal Abyad on Sunday, and in Zor Maghar on 26 October without inflicting casualties.

On 27 July, Turkey attacked an empty YPG position and FSA fighters trying to cross the border. Spent Turkish tank shells and two holes could still be seen in a house around three kilometers from the Turkish border.

“Turkey made some kind of red line for any force to cross the river. We were not aware of this, when they went there they attacked us, and after that Turkey apologized,” said Abu Muhammed al-Halabi, a grey-haired FSA commander who leads around 30 men from the Unity of Jarabulus brigade. He said his group did not loose any men. In the background, one could hear FSA fighters training with their guns, while ISIS tried to hit YPG and FSA positions with artillery.

“The Turks shelled us with a tank and four of our fighters were injured,” said Halabi. “We lost all the ammunition we had.”

On Saturday, Heval Xeyri said that Turkey would try to prevent any further Kurdish move on Jarabulus. “They [Turkey] already attacked once, it could happen again.”

One day later the pro-Turkish government media said that on Sunday two Turkish jets had attacked the YPG. This happened following a statement from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the
election campaigns on Saturday, saying that Turkey would never allow the Kurds to seize northern Syria entirely. However, both the YPG and the FSA said there had been no Turkish airstrikes. The FSA says that the YPG base came under enemy fire on Monday.

“Today there was enemy fire, but then it stopped. The YPG didn’t fire back,” said Halabi. “It seems it was from the Turkish side, but it is not clear if it was from the Turkish Army or ISIS.”

But even without the Turks it will be difficult for the Kurds to take Jarabulus — they have to cross the river and ISIS has the advantage of a defensive position.

“Of course its difficult, because we have no way to flee,” said Heval Shoresh, an YPG fighter. “If we have some casualties, we don’t have access to the road from there, and if we get stuck [on the
bridge] it would be difficult.”

Another YPG fighter, Heval Guevara, says the Kurds would prefer to take Jarabulus over the Islamic
State capital of Raqqa. “It would be more difficult for us to take Jarabulus because ISIS has access to Turkey and can get logistics and ammunition,” he said.

Many Kurds in the YPG believe that Turkey is secretly supporting the Islamic state, but Turkey has always denied any links with militants of the radical group.

On Monday two Turkish police officers and seven ISIS militants died in a clash in the town of Diyarbakir, in southeast Turkey.

Another problem, say the fighters, is the lack of US airstrikes in Jarabulus. The last airstrike was four months ago, just outside of Jarabulus. “They didn’t have any airstrikes in the city, only behind the city,” said Xeyri. Guevara says the US doesn’t want civilian casualties. “Because of civilians, they don’t carry out airstrikes. They use kids and civilians as human shields,” he added.

But Guevara is confident they can take Jarabulus even without airstrikes if they get the order from their leadership. “It would be difficult, but we don’t care because we are serious about this operation.

Nevertheless, he thinks that in the end the US-led coalition will support them. “Because we are the only boots on the ground and we, as YPG, are willing to do this.”

But it seems that Turkey will do everything it can to prevent it.

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