A YPG fighter in Syria. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The dominant military force in Syria’s Kurdish regions said it was halting military operations against Islamic extremist groups, following apparent allegations of arrests and human rights violations against local residents after an offensive on the town of Tal Barak.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement it was suspending military operations in the three “cantons” of Cizire, Kobani and Afrin, created in the northeast last month by its political overseer, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The YPG said its decision was aimed at avoiding Kurdish-Arab tensions, which apparently rose following an offensive last week in which the Kurdish forces wrested control of Tal Barak from the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“At the request of the officials of the Democratic Autonomous Government of Cizire, we as the YPG are committed to suspending all our military operations in all three Cantons of Cizire, Kobani, Afrin and the Kurdish areas in Aleppo and al-Riqqa,” the statement said.
However, it vowed to crush any attempts “to disturb peace” in Rojava, or Syria’s Kurdish regions, where the YPG has been instrumental in keeping out ISIL and al-Qaeda groups. Syria’s Kurdish regions have remained largely protected from the civil war between the Damascus regime and opposition forces that has raged for nearly three years.
“The attacks of the extremist groups of the Nusrah Front, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and other groups continue on all layers of society in the stable areas. As the YPG, our attempts have been to counter attacks from those who are strangers to this country,” the YPG statement said, referring to the fact that most jihadists fighting in Syria have reportedly gone there from other places.
YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said on his official Twitter account that, “We will take a defensive position in accordance with the right of legitimate defense, while reserving the right to respond to any aggression.”
The YPG statement said that last week’s offensive was to “set limitations for the transgression of such groups in Tal Barak,” which lies in Hasakah province.
According to the YPG, 30 Islamic militants were killed and more than 40 arrested in the Tal Barak offensive, which gave the YPG control over a major highway that connects the cities of Hasakah and Qamishli.
“The defeated groups in Tal Barak want to give a bad image to us and upset the Kurdish-Arab brotherhood, and they spread propaganda against us,” the YPG explained.
In a statement two days ago, it said that its military campaign had not targeted anyone but the extremist groups. It also called on non-Kurds to also assist in defeating the Islamists.
"This operation targeted the mercenaries only,” the YPG said. “We appeal to Arab tribes and the authentic people of the region to stand in the face of these groups.”
The statement said that, in response to allegations that YPG fighters had violated human rights and arrested local residents in Tal Barak, an independent fact-finding mission had been dispatched to the area.