Clashes in the Rojava region of northern Syria between al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which controls most of the region, are escalating. The strategic Yaroubia (Tel Kocher in Kurdish) crossing that links Rojava to Mosul and to Baghdad was captured by the PYD after prolonged clashes. Observers say the PYD’s capture of Yaroubia, following its earlier capture of the Ceylanpinar, Senyurt and Nusaybin crossings, will drastically alter balances in the region. Turkish daily Milliyet recently reported the advances of the PYD toward the crossing controlled by al-Qaeda groups.
According to a report by Syria-based Hawar News (ANHA) agency, on the night of Oct. 25, YPG militants launched a three-pronged assault against al-Qaeda-linked groups in the Tel Kocher area. YPG forces first seized the villages of Ciheshiye and Mahmoudiye and positions around them after violent combat. In the second massive assault at 3 a.m., the YPG captured the cement factory radical Islamists had been using as their headquarters. The YPG’s third major operation was at Suka Azad. Around dawn, the YPG captured the Yaroubia crossing that faces the Iraqi Rabia crossing. Reports said al-Qaeda groups sustained heavy casualties in these clashes. The YPG also reportedly captured a mortar tube, many weapons and ammunition.
After the capture of the border crossing, clashes shifted to the center of Tel Kocher where a tank belonging to al-Qaeda groups was destroyed and more casualties were inflicted. Many villages in the region are now under YPG control. The YPG is reported to have captured vast supplies of weapons and ammunition.
The second after Habur
After the vital Habur crossing between Iraq and Syria, Yaroubia — which is the most important gate to Iraq — is on the major trade route. Most of the economic activity between Syria and Iraq is conducted through this gate. The region is mostly populated by Turkmen and has been under Jabhat al-Nusra’s control until now.
After the PYD took over control of the Kurdish region, Turkey had closed the crossings of Nusaybin, Senyurt, Ceylanpinar and Akcakale linking the region to Turkey. That move has led to shortages of food and other basic needs in the region, compelling Syrian Kurds to turn to Iraqi Kurdistan for their basic needs. Because of problems between the PYD and other Kurdish parties that are allied with Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, the crossing was closed to Syrian Kurds, only to be occasionally opened for essential supplies. This is why the PYD has been expanding its operations to capture the Yaroubia crossing, which would allow unhindered access to Mosul.
Muslim will use the Mosul road
Last week, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) — the ruling Kurdish party of northern Iraq — did not allow PYD leader Salih Muslim to enter northern Iraq on his way to Europe. Muslim was told to go to Europe via Turkey, Iraq or Iran. After the PYD’s capture of the crossing to Mosul, Muslim will now be able to bypass northern Iraq and go to Europe via Mosul or Baghdad. The PYD intends to use this crossing to break the embargo of the northern Iraqi Kurds on Rojava.
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