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Turkish forces bombard northern Syria

August 28, 2016

Turkish bombardments have killed at least 35 people as Turkish forces move into areas controlled by Kurdish militia in northern Syria. A ground offensive is aimed at reversing Kurdish gains.

Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarablus
Image: Reuters

Scores of civilians were killed on Sunday in strikes in northern Syria as part of Turkey's "Euphrates Shield" campaign to drive fighters with the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and rival Kurdish forces away from Turkey's border, a monitor said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that air strikes and artillery fire on two villages under Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) control had had devastating effects on non-combatants.

"At least 20 civilians were killed and 50 others wounded by Turkish artillery fire and air strikes on Sunday morning at Jeb el-Kussa," a village south of Jarablus, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory.

Turkish soldiers with their tanks at the Syrian border
Turkish soldiers with their tanks at the Syrian borderImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Suna

There has been no official comment from Ankara although at least one Turkish official Tweeted that the slain people had been fighters with the YPG militia. Turkey considers it a terrorist group, linked to Turkey's Kurdish insurgents.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said the Kurdish militia wanted to unite Kurdish-controlled cantons east of Jarablus with those further west. "We cannot let this happen," he said.

Second Turkish strike

A second Turkish strike on Sunday near the town of Amarneh reportedly killed a further 15 civilians and wounded 25 more, many seriously, as jets attacked the village south of Jarablus.

The borderlands region has been controlled by militias aligned to the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). It is a broad grouping which includes the YPG. It has been coordinating with US warplanes and special forces in a broad military coalition against IS fighters.

Ankara wants to prevent Kurdish forces gaining control of an unbroken swathe of Syrian territory on Turkey's frontier. It fears this could embolden the Kurdish militant group PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Turkey suffered its first fatality Saturday after a rocket attack on a tank fired by Kurdish forces.

Brüssel Salih Muslim PYD Kurden Syrien
Kurdish PYD chief Saleh Muslim, said that Turkey was entering a "quagmire" in SyriaImage: picture-alliance/AA/D. Aydemir

Conflict frustrates anti-IS efforts

The military clashes between Kurdish and Turkish forces in Syria have put Turkey and the US at odds as Washington regards Kurdish fighters as its most effective ally against IS forces in Syria.

That adds complexity to the Syrian conflict that erupted five years ago with an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict has since drawn in regional states and world powers.

jar/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)