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Locals protest YPG/PKK, Assad regime oppression in N. Syria

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Locals living in Syria’s Azaz district held a demonstration against the Bashar Assad regime and the terrorist group PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG, on Sunday. Having been forcibly displaced from their lands by the YPG/PKK terrorist group in northern Syria, the people of Tal Rifaat gathered in the district center of Azaz and asked the Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army to clear their lands of the YPG/PKK terrorists. Noting that the Assad regime and Iran-backed terrorist groups are hiding in and around Tal Rifaat, the demonstrators demanded that those groups be expelled from Syria. Locals gather to protest YPG/PKK and the Assad regime in the Azaz district in northern Syria, June 5, 2022. (AA Photo) Chanting slogans against the YPG/PKK, Assad regime, and Iran, the demonstrators carried placards that read: “Tal Rifaat, occupied villages, separation gone long enough,” “It’s high time for the displaced people to return to their homes,” “Syria is free. Iran and YPG/PKK should exit!” “We want our lands to be cleared of terrorism.” Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Yusuf Kebso, who has been living away from his land for six years, said: “We came together today to protest against the terrorist organization YPG/PKK and its supporters. We want the Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army to clear our lands of terrorism.” Noting that the terrorist group forced them out of their homeland, he said: “The YPG/PKK has condemned us to makeshift tents. We have been living in tents for the last six years, away from our homes and workplaces.” Over the past years, the terrorist group managed to dig a network of tunnels in Tal Rifaat and surrounding villages. The YPG/PKK had seized Tal Rifaat in February 2016 with the air support of Russia. It displaced around 250,000 people, most of whom sought refuge close to the Turkish border. The terrorist group has been digging entrenchments in the Syrian border town of Tal Rifaat near the Turkish border, turning the area into a war zone. The YPG/PKK, which occupies roughly a third of Syria’s territory with the support of the United States, frequently targets Azaz, Marea, al-Bab, Jarablus, Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain in the north of the country with heavy weapons. In their attacks, the terrorists use advanced heavy weapons such as TOW missiles, multi-barrel rocket launchers, Katyusha and Grad missiles as well as the U.S. and Russian-made rocket launchers and mortars. The Tal Rifaat area of Aleppo, located 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the Turkish border, stands out during these attacks. The YPG/PKK has killed hundreds of civilians since 2016, targeting hospitals, schools and crowded civilian settlements with its attacks. The terrorist group wants to prevent the return of civilians to their lands by intimidating them. On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his country is set to clear two areas of northern Syria, near the Turkish border, of terrorist elements in a bid to eliminate the terrorism threat from the region. “We are entering a new phase of our decision to establish a safe zone 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) deep south (of the Turkish-Syrian border). We are clearing Tal Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists,” Erdoğan told a group meeting of his ruling party in the capital Ankara. Erdoğan has said as the U.S. and Russia failed to live up to their commitments to provide such a safe zone in the border region, Turkey is ready to mount an operation to protect the nation and locals in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terrorist threat. In October 2019, Russia expressed commitment to removing the terrorist group from Tal Rifaat and Manbij after reaching an agreement with Turkey during Operation Peace Spring. Moscow also promised that the terrorists would be removed 30 kilometers from the border on the M4 road and in the area outside the Operation Peace Spring area. Likewise, then-U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pledged to Turkey that the YPG/PKK terrorist group would withdraw from the region of Operation Peace Spring. The YPG has controlled much of northeastern Syria after the forces of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad withdrew in 2012. The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey and the European Union, and Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara. The U.S. primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria to fight the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.’ support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee. While acknowledging Turkey’s security concerns, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has voiced concerns about Turkey’s plans, saying a new operation could undermine regional stability and put American forces at risk. Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019). In 2019, an operation into northeast Syria against the YPG drew widespread international condemnation, prompting Finland, Sweden and others to restrict arms sales to Turkey. Now Turkey is blocking the two Nordic countries’ historic bid to join NATO because of the weapons ban and their support of the terrorist group.

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