Turkey’s military will push its war on Kurds deeper into northern Syria, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested.
Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey would “clean” Kurdish YPG militia fighters from its entire border with Syria. That would mean an extension of the war it launched in Afrin, north west Syria, earlier in January which may already have killed hundreds of people.
At least eight civilians were reported on Monday to have been killed following Turkish airstrikes on a Syrian village. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said five children from one family were among the dead.
The Turkish military boasted on Monday that it had killed nearly 600 people since its assault on Syria began. The YPG and linked militant groups say the number killed is much lower.
People protested in solidarity with the Kurds in several European cities over the weekend.
Some 20,000 people joined a protest in Cologne, Germany, which was attacked by riot cops. Some 2,000 cops, backed up by water cannons, blocked the march and demanded marchers drop flags supporting the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
Thousands more people protested in cities such as Paris and London.
The London march heard calls for an end to British arms sales to Turkey and for Labour and trade unions to oppose repression by Turkey.
Erdogan’s war is aimed at crushing the YPG, which is linked to the PKK. The PKK fights for equal rights and autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, and has led armed resistance to Turkey’s repression against the Kurds.
But the invasion brings Turkey into conflict with the US, which has armed and supported the YPG, and even carries the risk of direct clashes with US forces.
The US and its key Middle East ally Israel have both intervened in Syria, fearing that their rivals Iran and Russia could gain more influence. The US backed the YPG to help it seize control of large areas of Syria.
US special forces are also stationed further to the east of Afrin. That means Turkish and US forces could clash if Turkey pushes its invasion eastwards.
The spokesperson for the US-led forces in Syria warned last week that its forces would “defend themselves” against any Turkish attack.
In a sign of tension between the US and Turkey, Erdogan and Donald Trump held a phone call last week—but later disagreed over what was said.
Trump claimed to have warned Erdogan to “limit its military actions”. But Turkey said the US account of the call was inaccurate.
Competition among rival powers, vying for control of Syrian territories risks spiralling into an even bloodier conflict in which the Kurds are used as a pawn.
The Turkish invasion must be wholly opposed.
Kurdish groups that have allied themselves with the US in the past have always been betrayed. The Kurds won’t gain from tying themselves to the US, which has wreaked havoc across the Middle East.