More refugees expected as ISIS clashes with FSA in Azez

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 18.06.2015 20:22

Clashes intensified between Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the Azez district of Aleppo, which is opposite the Kilis border crossing, which could signal an imminent operation by the U.S.-led coalition that will eventually vacate the region and lead to another refugee influx to Turkey.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People's Protection Units (YPG), which is billed by Turkey as an extension of the outlawed PKK, took control of Tal Abyad in Syria, a border town that used to be under ISIS control, and now flys its flag in the town. The ISIS members that withdrew from Tal Abyad are now fighting against the Syrian opposition groups, which will likely be followed by intervention by coalition forces and evacuating the region. Turkey fears another influx of refugees might be at the door.Thousands of Syrian refugees streamed into Turkey's Şanlıurfa province through the Akçakale border crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border on Sunday fleeing the clashes between Kurdish forces and ISIS.

The operation against ISIS in Tal Abyad has raised some concerns for Ankara, as while it purportedly aims to push ISIS militants out of the town, it has also forced ethnic Turkmens and Arabs out, leading them to evacuate the town.

Ankara, which considers YPG fighters to be terrorists, is worried that the vacated town will be filled with YPG forces and their presence close to the Turkish border could put its security under threat.

The operation against ISIS, which holds large areas of Syria and Iraq, has led Turkmens and Arabs to abandon their villages. Hundreds of Syrians fled their homes due to intense clashes and headed either south to Raqqah or north to Turkey. They thronged the border, which is directly opposite the town of Tal Abyad, and waited to be accepted by Turkey, depending on its open-door policy. Turkey accepted some 23,000 refugees.

Now the situation in Azez signals another similar incident, and there are doubts that Kurds want to combine the cantons to have full control of the region aligning with the Turkish border for unreported purposes. One scenario is that the PYD wants to discard Turkey, which agreed with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani to transit the oil it produces through Turkey and form an alternative route. The other is that the operation aimed for a demographic change in the region.

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