The car bombs terrorising Syrian civilians won't stop unless the YPG feels the costs.

Within two days, areas controlled by the Syrian Interim Government were targeted by three car bomb attacks that killed 20 people and wounded more than 80 others. Even though, no one claimed the attack, several clues implicate the YPG terror group in Syria. 

The ignorance of the international community to the issue and the inability to prevent such attacks through security measures leave retaliation as the only option to save the lives of civilians from the terror of car bombs.

On 30 January 2021, a truck exploded within the industrial zone of Afrin. The attack killed eight civilians and the driver of the truck. According to eye-witnesses, the driver had his two children with him at the moment of the explosion indicating that the bomb was planted without the knowledge of the driver. 

A day later, another car bomb exploded near the cultural centre of Azaz, killing six civilians. Before the shock of the attack in Azaz ended, news came in that another car bomb exploded near Al Bab at the checkpoint of the Syrian National Army, killing six soldiers. 

The car came from YPG-held areas and was inspected at the checkpoint of the Syrian National Army. After the bomb was discovered, the soldiers tried to arrest the car driver, but he detonated the bomb. If the soldiers had not discovered the bomb at the checkpoint, it would have likely exploded in a more crowded civilian area. 

The use of car bombs is concerted YPG strategy since Operation Olive Branch conducted by the Syrian National Army and Turkish Armed Forces. On January 2018, a female YPG fighter conducted a SVBIED attack and was openly applauded by YPG-affiliated media. Since then, according to the Terrorism Analysis Platform, the YPG has conducted 166 car bomb attacks in Syria in the areas run by the Syrian Interim Government.

In one case, a resident in Raqqa drove with his car towards Tal Abyad and was stopped at the YPG checkpoint before entering territory run by the Syrian Interim Government. He was taken out of the car and searched. The YPG let him continue his trip and the car was stopped at a Syrian National Army checkpoint who discovered a bomb in the car. The driver was rescued and the bomb was detonated in a safe area.

The overlap of YPG-claimed territory and the location of attacks – as well as the form of attacks – all indicate the involvement of the YPG. Other possible culprits like Daesh usually claim their attacks, but have not in these cases. If Daesh was behind these attacks, the terror group would also launch similar attacks elsewhere in Syria.

The high frequency of the attacks require capacity that Daesh does not possess. While the group has gone largely underground, the YPG controls vast territories and has the necessary means. Keeping in mind that the PKK/YPG has a known history and experience in conducting car bomb attacks and suicide attacks, and that many of the car bombs came from YPG-held areas, the involvement of the YPG is undeniable.

But why can’t the attacks be prevented?

It is more or less impossible to prevent all car bomb attacks. The YPG has 40 years of the PKK's experience and a safe-territory to plan and organise these attacks. While the Turkish security apparatus with all of its equipment, experience and resources couldn’t prevent all PKK attacks, one should not expect the Syrian National Army and the Free Syrian Police to have more success with fewer resources, experience and equipment. The local Syrian security authorities lack the technical equipment to detect the bombs. Moreover, the general environment of war makes it all the more difficult.

Even if local authorities had the equipment necessary, they would still not be able to prevent car bomb attacks in most cases. In addition to the car bombs that come from YPG-held areas, YPG cells build the bombs themselves, plant bombs on civilian cars or blow themselves up. There is very little that can be done in this situation.

The only solution is to retaliate via airstrikes.

Until now, the car bombs of the YPG don't cost the group but are efficient for a “Protracted War” strategy

In order to force the YPG leadership to end its terror, each car bomb should be met with retaliation. The Turkish Armed Forces have to respond by conducting airstrikes against YPG positions and facilities in YPG-held areas of Syria. By doing so, the YPG would suffer heavy casualties. Either the group stops its car bomb attacks or continues to pay the price for its crimes.

With clear and open communication from Turkey to the world that these airstrikes were conducted as retaliation to the car bomb attacks, the message will be received among the leadership of the YPG. Killing civilians comes at a cost.

The international media that continues to ignore the acts of terror by the YPG will be covering the Turkish airstrikes and will be forced to highlight the usage of car bombs. Moreover, the USA and Russia, who have not taken any action until today, will likely reject these Turkish airstrikes. This rejection by Moscow and Washington can open the way for Ankara to push both states to take action against the YPG. 

Preferably, another joint Syrian-Turkish military operation may end the YPG's terror once and for all.

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