Early on April 25, Turkey carried out a series of air raids in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
According to a Turkish military statement, warplanes targeted groups linked to the Kurdistan People’s Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK) – the Yazidi-led Sinjar Resistance Units (Yekîneyên Berxwedana Şengalê, YBŞ) on Mount Sinjar and the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) near Malikiya, northern Syria.
Kurds refer to Malikiya as Derik.
— Hürriyet Daily News (@HDNER) April 25, 2017
In a statement, the Turkish military said the 2 a.m. airstrikes strikes were aimed at preventing the PKK from funneling weapons for attacks inside Turkey.
“To destroy these terror hubs which threaten the security, unity and integrity of our country and our nation and as part of our rights based on international law, air strikes have been carried out … and terrorist targets have been struck with success,” the Turkish army said, according to a Reuters translation of the statement.
The YPG are the largest component of the US coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting against Islamic State in Syria.
In a press briefing, US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the airstrikes were “without proper coordination” and the US has expressed its concerns to the government of Turkey directly.
Toner said that the US is “cognizant of the threat that the PKK poses to Turkey” but added that “Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against the terrorists that threaten us all.”
“These kinds of actions harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIS and frankly harm our partners on the ground.”
US Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner
A spokesperson for the US-led coalition told Grasswire that it encourages all forces in the region to “concentrate their efforts on ISIS” and not toward objectives that divert from the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“The Coalition is aware of the Turkish airstrikes in Northern Iraq and Syria. As we’ve said in the past, all of Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
During his weekly address to the nation, Iraqi Prime Minister Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi said: “Turkey should not violate Iraqi sovereignty.”
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters that operations will continue in Iraq and northern Syria “until the last terrorist is eliminated.”
“We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps. We shared this with the US and Russia and we are sharing it with Iraq as well,” Erdogan said in an interview with Reuters, adding “It is an operation that [Kurdish President Masoud] Barzani has been informed about.”
Erdogan said that Turkey informed partners including the US, Russia, and Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of the operations.
Turkey gave US & Russia 1 hour notice before 24 fighter jets bombed over 30 US-backed Kurds in Syria & Iraq. US & Russia objected to strike
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) April 25, 2017
YPG headquarters in Syria
Salih Muslim, co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD) called on the US coalition to react. “A people fighting terrorism is being struck in the back. Coalition forces should not remain silent on this. Nobody should approve these attacks,” he said.
YPG general command said in a statement its headquarters in Mount Karachok near Malikiya had been hit and a number of its fighters were killed.
“This treacherous attack has led to the death and wounding of a number of our comrades,” the statement said.
YPG spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl said: “Twenty of our fighters were killed and 18 more injured as a result of the Turkish airstrikes.”
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the strikes in Syria killed at least 18 YPG members.
The headquarters includes a media center, radio station, communications facilities and military installations, the YPG said. It is around 12km (7.5 miles) south of Malikiya.
An anonymous Turkish military official told The Associated Press that the strikes are believed to have killed around 200 Kurdish fighters, including senior commanders.
Images posted on social media on April 25 purported to show US coalition and YPG personnel at Mount Karachok.
The Kurdish National Congress (Kongreya Neteweyî ya Kurdistanê, KNK) said the strikes had completely cut communications in Malikiya and surrounding areas.
Strikes in Sinjar
In Sinjar, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Peshmerga called the airstrikes unacceptable while calling on the PKK to withdraw its fighters from the area.
The Peshmerga deputy commander in Sinjar, Brigadier General Sme, told NRT on April 25 that a Peshmerga headquarters was targeted and four Peshmerga and one Asayish member were killed.
YBŞ commander Mazlum Shingal said YBŞ positions, Peshmerga points and civilian areas were targeted in the strikes.
Peshmerga Ministry spokesperson Helgurt Hikmet called on the PKK to “revise their stance” regarding Sinjar, and accused the group of not wanting clashes in the region to end.
He warned that Turkish air raids were likely to continue if the PKK refuses to leave Sinjar and said the Iraqi government is unable to defend its territorial sovereignty.
Hikmet also called on Turkey to use “greater care” in dealing with the situation, adding that he didn’t want the Sinjar area to be part of regional conflicts.
Iraqi political reaction
Five parties in the Kurdistan region’s parliament – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Change Movement (Gorran), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU, Ykegirtu), Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) and Kurdistan Islamic Movement – issued joint statement condemning the strikes.
“Once again, Turkish warplanes violated the sovereignty of the land of the Kurdistan Region and bombed the bases of Peshmerga andYBŞ fighters as well as people’s public places and other areas.”
The parties urged the UN to condemn the attack and to deter the Turkish armed forces from acting outside its territory.
The Kurdistan region’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party also condemned the airstrikes.
“As we’re angry with the bombing of bases and positions of our Peshmerga and are strongly expressing our concerns, we emphasize even if these attacks were carried out mistakenly, it is still unacceptable,” a KDP statement said.
The statement blamed the PKK presence in the Sinjar area for the strikes.