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    Kurds Vow to 'Defend Themselves' as Turkey Seeks to 'Cut Off Syria's Afrin'

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    The Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army are intensifying their military activities in the Syrian cities of Marra and Azaz, located near Afrin, head of the Afrin Kurdish canton Hevi Mustafa told Sputnik.

    According to him, Turkish forces have recently attacked positions of Kurdish self-defense groups (YPG) on the Turkish-Syrian border.

    "The Shahba district and the village of Tall-Rifaat were recently attacked from cannons and howitzers. There are dead and wounded among civilians. The killed civilians were Arabs. Turkey wants to attack Afrin to cut it off from other cantons. It does not want to recognize their unification. It seeks to prevent the implementation of the project of democratic autonomy," Mustafa told Sputnik.

    Afrin is a town and district in the Kurdish region of Syria proclaimed and recognized only by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). It is located in the province of Aleppo and belongs to the de facto autonomous region of Rojava.

    On Tuesday, Rezan Hedo, a member of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council, told Sputnik that Syrian Kurdish settlements located near Afrin in the country's northwest came under artillery fire from the Turkish troops. Hedo also noted that Turkey is creating its military bases in the region.

    "According to the information we have, over the past two weeks, Turkish military bases have been established near Marra, Azaz and Tel Cibrin. Turkish military, heavy weapons and equipment were deployed there," Hedo told Sputnik.

    At the same time, Turkish media reported, citing military sources, that the country's armed forces had carried out 20 strikes against the positions of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) near Afrin.

    "We will defend ourselves whoever attacks Afrin. We can defend ourselves; we will use our right to self-defense. We want to develop friendly and good-neighborly relations with the Turkish people. The Turkish people must prevent the attacks against us. We do not want to quarrel with anyone," Mustafa said.

    "Turkey has been attacking Afrin for 5 years using howitzers and tanks. But in the past few months, it has openly declared its intention to conduct a military operation in Afrin. There are official statements on this issue. Turkey deployed units of the Free Syrian Army near Afrin and Shahba. Jointly with these units, it wants to take Afrin under control and reach Idlib," he added.

    Ankara has repeatedly bombed the positions of Kurds in northern Syria. Turkish authorities consider the Syrian Kurdish associations to be a wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey has banned. They fear that the Kurds will create a sovereign entity in the north of Syria posing a challenge to the Turkish national security.

    Experts argue that Turkey is aware of the importance of Afrin as a strategic location and a replenishment source of manpower, funds and weapons for the Kurds. That is why Ankara intends to conduct a military operation in this region.

    Related:

    Turkey Shells Kurdish Settlements Near Syria's Afrin
    Turkish Military Op Against Kurds in Syria's Afrin Could Begin 'Any Time Soon'
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    offensive, military operation, Kurds, Turkey, Afrin, Syria
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