The Turkish military has dug a trench along the key M4 highway in northern Syria, in an attempt to prevent Kurdish militias from launching attacks on and infiltration areas controlled by Turkish forces.
The trench, which extends 230 kilometres (143 miles) and is 4 meters deep and 4 meters wide, was announced by Turkish media yesterday. Turkish forces aim to use the trench to secure the areas north of the M4 highway, which runs across northern Syria to Latakia on the coast in the west.
Over the past two years, Turkish forces have made themselves largely responsible for the security of large parts of the highway – protecting it from militants and protestors in the local areas – often in hand with Russian forces.
In recent months, however, Ankara has grown ever more concerned with infiltration by Kurdish militants from groups such as the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The digging of the long trench comes almost two months after a shelling attack by the YPG into Turkish territory from the northern Syrian region of Azaz, which killed two Turkish police officers and prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to announce that Turkey had lost its patience with the militia and would launch a new military operation against it.
There have also been numerous bombings and terrorist attacks committed by Kurdish militants in towns and areas held by the Turkish military or its Syrian proxy groups.