15 dead in Turkish assault on Syria: What does Turkey want? What it means for Assad?
Beirut, Oct 09: Turkish bombardment on Kurdish-controlled areas in north-eastern Syria killed at least 15 people on Wednesday, eight of them were civilians, a monitoring group said in an updated toll.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least two of the civilian victims were killed in artillery strikes on the city of Qamishli. Turkey launched its threatened offensive hours earlier, with a limited number of airstrikes and mostly artillery fire across most of the width of its long border with Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria.
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a vast network of sources across Syria, said more than 40 people had also been wounded in the early phase of the attack.
The Kurds, whose main militia is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara, have vowed to resist any ground offensive and called on the population to mobilise.
The flat and open terrain favours Turkey's vastly superior military however and the Kurdish forces have limited means to resist without the support of their US allies. The offensive, which was widely condemned, comes three days after US President Donald Trump announced a US troop pullback from the border, effectively green-lighting a Turkish invasion.
What does Turkey want?
Before you even understand what does Turkey want, it's important to understand who the Kurds. Kurds are the world's largest ethnic minority without a country of their own - there are roughly 35 million Kurds living across the borders of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey - the latter of which has the highest Kurdish population.
So, the Turkey who have long had militant struggles with their own Kurdish population in the south-east has only two main goals in northeast Syria:
to drive the Kurdish YPG militia which it deems a security threat away from its border, and
to create a space inside Syria where 2 million Syrian refugees currently hosted in Turkey can be settled.
What does this mean for Assad?
A Turkish incursion could mean the area switching from a non-hostile force - the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - to Turkey and rebels that have long viewed Turkey as an occupying power.