Syria threatens to shoot down Turkish jets over Kurdish area
Syrians children sit around a fire to keep warm at the make-shift camp of Kalbeed near the Bab Al Hawa crossing on the Syria-Turkey border.
Beirut - The escalation comes after the United States disclosed plans to form a 30,000-strong border force in Syria
Published: Thu 18 Jan 2018, 9:25 PM
Last updated: Thu 18 Jan 2018, 11:30 PM
Syria said on Thursday its air defence would shoot down any Turkish jets that carry out attacks within Syria, a stark warning as tensions soar over apparent preparations by the Turkish military to invade a Syrian Kurdish enclave.
From Damascus, Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said a military incursion into Syria's Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin would be "no picnic" for Turkey. Any such operation would be considered an "aggressive act", Mekdad said.
The escalation comes after the United States disclosed plans to form a 30,000-strong border force in Syria led by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces in the wake of the victory over the Daesh group. Turkey reacted angrily to the announcement.
Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish militia that controls Afrin and other areas along its frontier as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its borders and wants to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish corridor along the frontier.
Earlier on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on the US to abandon ideas of a Syrian Kurdish border force, saying that Washington has been inconsistent in its statements about its plans.
Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan had called the US-proposed force an "army of terror", and vowed to crush it. He said Turkey would launch a military offensive against the enclave of Afrin and other Syrian Kurdish militia-controlled territories, and was massing troops and tanks on its border.
In Afrin, residents took to the streets to protest Turkey's threats, according to photos published by the Kurdish news agency Hawar. They waved flags of the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, and also banners of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation.
Mekdad told reporters in Damascus that Syria's air force has been restored to its former might after seven years of civil war and was "ready to destroy Turkish air targets in the skies of the Syrian Arab Republic".