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Geolocation of Turkish Airstrikes on YPG Positions

October 21, 2016

By Christiaan Triebert

Translations: Русский

On the night from October 19 to October 20, the Turkish Air Force bombed positions allegedly of the People’s Protection Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) in Syria’s Aleppo governorate. This is a brief overview of open source information on the incident.

Geolocation

In total, the Turkish Air Force dropped 26 bombs on 18 different targets, including nine buildings used as shelters, and an arsenal, according to Turkey’s state-run press service Anadolu Agency, citing a military source. A 1-minute and 56-second video showing six different strikes, all of which have been geolocated by Twitter users [tweet, website].

Five out of six strikes have been geolocated, as shown on the map below.

Strike 1 (0:00-0:17)

The first airstrike has been geolocated by Twitter user @was_algonquin to 36.390068, 37.253568 (Wikimapia).

strike-1

Strike 2 (0:17-0:38)

The second strike has been also geolocated by @was_algonquin to 36.39277, 37.25621 (Wikimapia).

strike-2

Strike 3 (0:38-0:56)

The third airstrike has again been geolocated by @was_algonquin to 36.399254, 37.256873 (Wikimapia).

strike-3

Strike 4 (0:56-1:15)

The fourth airstrike has not been geolocated yet.

Strike 5 (1:15-1:36)

The airstrike has been geolocated by Twitter user @fevciinzii was geolocated to 36.411509, 37.2348118 (Wikimapia).

strike-5

Strike 6 (1:36-1:56)

The sixth strike was also geolocated by @fevciinzii to 36.4051194, 37.2297049 (Wikimapia).

strike-6

Mapped on a base layer of syria.liveuamap.com, the airstrikes were indeed in YPG-held territory, close to the frontline with Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters. The locations of the airstrikes are marked in pink.

overview

The location of the airstrikes is very close near the village of Hassadjek, the location where Russia accused Belgium of killing six civilians due to airstrikes on October 18, 2016. Hassadjek was reportedly captured by the YPG on September 26, 2016.

Information related the incident was “handed over to the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria by the local council of the Syrian city of Afrin,” Russia Today wrote. The Russian Ministry of Defence said neither Syrian nor Russian jets were carrying out airstrikes in the area.

However, Belgium has accused the Russian MoD of faking data about the airstrike (Novaya Gazeta). Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput tweeted that it is “Russian disinformation” [archived]:

vandeput

Casualties

The Turkish military said it killed between 160 and 200 YPG fighters, according to Anadolu Agency.

However, senior YPG-commander Mahmoud Barkhadan told The Associated Press that the death toll was much lower, putting it at no more than ten casualties and around twenty injured. Mr. Barkhadan said that Turkish tanks had been shelling their positions since October 20 and were joined by military aircraft overnight.

Context

Both Turkey and the YPG are fighting against so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria. But despite their common goal, Turkey perceives the YPG, and it’s political arm PYD as well as the broader coalition it fronts, the SDF, as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK‎). Turkey views YPG and SDF territorial gains long its border with Syria as a national seucrity threat.

This has caused friction between Turkey and its NATO ally the United States (US), as the latter has provided military support to the SDF/YPG. In other words, NATO-member “Turkey Bombs U.S.-Backed Kurds in Syria’s Aleppo Province” (NBC News). However, not much support has been provided to the YPG in Afrin.

Turkey has started a cross-border operation with allied groups on August 24, code-named by Turkey as Operation Euphrates Shield.

Christiaan Triebert

Christiaan Triebert is an all-source conflict analyst with an interest in conflict and development. He has conducted fieldwork in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, among other countries. King's College London and University of Groningen graduate. Contact via Twitter: @trbrtc

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