Two members of Iraqi Kurdistan’s secret police, the Asayesh a organizations tasked with national security, were wounded by a Turkish airstrike in Semalka. Semalka is a Syria/Kurdistan border crossing outside of Duhok that has now been closed in the aftermath of the strike. Heavy bombardments from artillery and Turkish war planes have been experienced with increasing frequency around northern Kurdistan as Turkey attempts to target members of the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party), a long-standing enemy of the Turkish government and NATO labeled terrorist organization. Peshmerga General Babakir Zebari confirmed to local media that, “Ten long-range artillery shells fell on the Fishkhabur-Simalka border crossing.”
The situation at the Syria/Kurdistan crossing has been exacerbated by continuous disagreements between the Rojava government and Kurdistan Regional Government as well as disputes between their various political parties. The crossing had already been the subject of strict security measures which led to the Asayesh men being in the line of fire. Whether or not Iraq or the KRG will respond to the attack remains to be seen.
Primarily, the crossing had been strategically employed by the United States led coalition forces to bolster the Syrian Democratic Forces and enter Syria from Iraqi Kurdistan staging locations. This alone has been a cause for heightened security measures. The SDF is composed primarily of Kurdish YPG members, a group that Turkey views to be in close relation to the PKK and is currently engaged with them in a Syria land grab operation. Operation Olive Branch has been a long process of reclaiming lands that belonged to Turkey prior to the Islamic State. Now Turkey is militarily forcing its way back in with a recent victory in the Canton of Afrin. Both the YPG and PKK deny the existence of any collaboration or relationship with each other despite Turkey’s claims.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week addressed the fact that the fight against the PKK would take Turkey into new territory. During a press conference he said, “You may hear new goals at any moment. Today, Turkey finds terror organization in their dens at the border and breathes down their necks. They [terrorists] are hiding, we are chasing them. What happened? They ran off to Syria, to Afrin, to Sinjar [Shingal].” Turkey has recently given Iraq the ultimatum to handle the PKK presence in Sinjar or they would step in. The PKK left Sinjar en-mass soon after at the request of the local populace for fear of a situation similar to Afrin happening.