Since 2016, Turkey has launched three major operations inside Syria, targeting Syria’s main Kurdish militia — the People’s Protection Units or YPG — which Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK has for decades waged an insurgency within Turkey against the government in Ankara.

In northern Syria, residents are bracing for a new fight. With the world’s attention focused on the war in Ukraine, Turkey’s leader says he’s planning a major military operation to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters and create a long sought-after buffer zone in the border area, AP says.

Tensions are high. Hardly a day passes by without an exchange of fire and shelling between the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, and Turkish forces and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition gunmen.

Analysts say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to push his own goals in neighboring Syria — even using Turkey’s ability as a NATO member to veto alliance membership by Finland and Sweden as potential leverage.

But a major incursion by Ankara comes with risks and complications, threatening to upset Turkey’s ties with both the United States and Russia. It also risks creating a new wave of displacement in a war-ravaged region where the Islamic State group still lurks in the shadows.

“We’ll come down on them suddenly one night. And we must,” Erdogan said, without giving a specific timeline.

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