Turkey seeks to use Afrin hospital bombing to justify fight against Kurds before Biden-Erdogan meeting - analyst

Turkey is using the bombing of a hospital in northern Syria for propaganda purposes ahead of a meeting between its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United States President Joe Biden, Dr. Seth Frantzman wrote in a column on Sunday for the Jerusalem Post

On Saturday, a hospital in the city of Afrin inside Turkish-occupied northern Syria was hit by two missiles, killing two staff and wounding 11 civilians. Shortly after the attack, Turkish media blamed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for conducting a “terrorist attack” against the hospital, which is operated by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). 

The SDF denied responsibility for the attack in a statement to the Syria-based Northern Press Agency. A spokesman for the group said they do not even have forces within the vicinity of Afrin.

Frantzman writes that Turkish accounts of the missile strike are downplaying any possibility that it originated from another actor, whether it was the Syrian government or infighting among its own proxies. Instead, Frantzman contends that blaming the SDF is a way to exert pressure on President Biden ahead of his meeting with Erdogan on Monday. 

“Turkey appears to have simply invented this narrative without an investigation to try to put pressure on the Biden administration,” wrote Frantzman. 

Turkey considers the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) among its components, as an extension of its decades-old foe, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Both Turkey and the U.S consider the PKK a terrorist organisation, but Turkey accuses the U.S of endangering its own security by supporting the SDF. 

The speech in which Turkish officials from the top down blamed the Kurdish group for destroying the SAMS hospital suggests it was premeditated, according to Frantzman. However, the analyst said that the SDF has had no history of targeting hospitals unlike the Syrian government and Russia, who have struck hospitals in the past. 

Frantzman said that Turkey does not want to blame either Damascus or Moscow for the operation regardless of similarities surrounding previous attacks. 

“Ankara works closely with Moscow, which it is buying the S-400 air defense system from, and does not want to blame Russia or the Syrian regime for attacks,” he wrote.