Turkey warned on Wednesday that pro-Damascus forces would face “serious consequences” for entering Syria’s Afrin region to help Kurdish fighters repel a Turkish offensive.
Their arrival raises the specter of wider escalation on Syria’s northern battlefront، which includes the Syrian army، allied Iran-linked militias، Kurdish forces، rebels، Turkish troops، and Russian and American forces.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Turkish planes bombed a town in Afrin and fighting raged on the ground on Wednesday. Turkey launched its assault last month to drive out the YPG، which it deems a menace along its border.
More paramilitary forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went to Afrin on Wednesday، state media said.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said shellfire had forced an earlier convoy to retreat. “Any step by the (Syrian) regime or other elements in this direction will surely have serious consequences،” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference.
A commander in the alliance fighting alongside Damascus in Syria’s seven-year war told Reuters that pro-government forces in Afrin had returned fire after rebels backed by Turkey attacked them on Tuesday night.
A new confrontation، pitting the Turkish army directly against pro-Assad forces، would further scramble the web of alliances and rivalries already at play in northern Syria.
Erdogan has described the pro-government fighters as Shi‘ite Muslim militias acting independently and warned they would pay a heavy price.
Kalin said Turkey was not in direct talks with the Syrian government، but its messages to Damascus were being indirectly conveyed.