The Turkish military took “necessary measures” to tighten security along the Syrian border after the National Security Council (MGK) discussed a possible cross-border operation into northern Syria and the setting “red lines” against clashing militant groups and the Syrian regime in the region during a meeting on June 29.
Turkish daily Milliyet reported on Wednesday that the country will consider any incursion to the west of Euphrates in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and any attack to the north of Idlib by Syrian regime forces as a “violation of the red line” which was set by the MGK meeting.
The PYD is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK which is recognised as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.
Turkish media reported that the Turkish government gave a directive to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to take necessary measures along the 110-kilometres long Turkish border line between Jarablus and Azez after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had held several security meetings on Syria in his presidential palace.
Media reports said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been alarmed along the border and many military vehicles including tanks, air defence systems, armoured combat vehicles, and military personnel have been moved in the Mediterranean province of Kilis across the northern Syrian district of Azez by the 5th Armored Brigade Command.
The brigade watches over a 190-kilometres (118 mile) border line from Kilis to the southeastern province of Gaziantep along the Syrian frontier. The brigade has deployed its armoured corps around the Dag and Cobanbey border posts in the Elbeyli district of Kilis and also near the Oncupinar border crossing across Azez.
Turkish Firtina [Storm] howitzers with a 40-kilometre range firing capacity have been deployed next to the actual border line as the brigade watches over the area between Azez and Jarablus in northern Syria.
Reports have also emerged stating that the 2nd Air Force Command in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir has been reinforced by 20 F-16 fighters jets coming from the other Turkish provinces. The heavily-armed jets have been performing reconnaissance flights non-stop along Turkey’s Iraqi and Syrian borders being ordered to strike suspect targets. According to the reports military personnel have also had their vacation time temporarily suspended.
ISIS has reportedly withdrawn from areas close to the Turkish border where the Turkmen-populated Cobanbey town is located following the Turkish military’s deployments in the area. Cobanbey was captured by the ISIS in February 2014.
Turkish official Anadolu Agency previously reported that ISIS militants have been spotted planting landmines along the border near Jarablus over the week and digging ditches.
The TSK has also increased security measures along the border line close to the Karkamis crossing across Jarablus controlled by ISIS.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin previously stated that, “It is not healthy to interpret the necessary measures which aim to ensure our border security as ‘Turkey is entering a war’.”
The Turkish government has been alarmed by both ISIS’ move toward the Azez-Mare line and the enlargement of northern Kurdish enclaves under the control of the PYD along Turkey’s border with Syria.
Reports state that ISIS recently attacked the area between Azez and Mare in northwestern Syria which is controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) after the group lost Tal Abyad to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militant wing of the PYD, which was then able to join the Kobane and Jazira “cantons,” by capturing the district.
ISIS is already controlling a zone from Jarablus to Mare along the Turkish border which is also laid out between the two Kurdish “cantons” Kobane and Afrin.
In a dire scenario, threatened by ISIS in Azez-Mare, the FSA could ask the YPG for help in order to protect its own region which may make the Kurdish group capable of extending its reach to Afrin, another isolated Kurdish “canton” declared by the PYD in western Syria.
The PYD needs to overrun Jarablus passing west of Euphrates to reach the Azez-Mare line if this scenario is to be realised. Then, the PYD might take full control of the Turkish-Syrian border and effectively arouse more suspicions in Turkey that a Kurdish state is at its gates.
Therefore, Turkey has put a red line in effect west of Euphrates saying that if the PYD tends to make any operation beyond the river to the further west, the TSK will carry out a cross border operation without giving any notice, Milliyet reported.
If ISIS captures the area, it will able to take control of Oncupinar border crossing to Turkey, and could get closer to reach the Cilvegozu crossing. Then, Turkey would virtually lose its access to its border because it will completely be controlled by the two hostile groups to the country.
In addition, the culmination effect of capturing the crossings could cause a new wave of refugee migration from Syria to Turkey, one of the main reasons for Turkey’s activation of the second red line referring to any Bashar Assad regime attack to north of Idlib, media reports said.
It is feared that if the regime attacks north of Idlib, there will be a huge flow of refugees into Turkey which already hosts more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees who escaped the violence in their country in large numbers after the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012.