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Massing Of Turkish Troops On Border With Syrian Kurds Draws Protests

Syria -- Turkish soldiers drive back to Turkey from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus, September 02, 2016

Tens of thousands of people protested in a northern Syrian town on July 5 amid fears that Turkey might stage attacks in the Kurdish-held border region.

The demonstrators took to the streets of Afrin wrapped in flags of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and carrying portraits of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) jailed in Turkey.

Protesters chanted "No to Turkish intervention" while the head of the YPG told Reuters that Turkish military deployments near the border amount to a "declaration of war" and could trigger clashes within days.

The two sides have exchanged artillery fire in recent days.

Turkey maintains the YPG is a security threat and is allied with the PKK, which has been fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades and is considered a terrorist group.

"This is not a declaration of war. We are making preparations against potential threats," Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters. "If Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind."

The YPG has been a U.S. ally in its campaign to defeat the Islamic State extremist group in Raqqa.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters