Turkish shelling and air strikes have killed at least 20 civilians in Syria on the fifth day of an incursion against the Islamic State (ISIS) group and Kurdish forces, according to a monitoring group.
“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],” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based monitor with a network of sources on the ground.
Turkey has not yet released an official comment.
one Turkish soldier and three others were wounded in a rocket attack on a Turkish tank south of Jarablus late on Saturday, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, in the military’s first fatality since the launch of its offensive to partly help Syria rebels capture Jarablus from ISIS.
“The Turkish army has intensified its military operation following the death of a Turkish soldier. Turkish sources say he was killed in an attack by [Kurdish] YPG fighters,” a journalist said.
He said that the army had been “shelling and launching air strikes” in areas controlled by the YPG.
“These are areas that Turkey has asked the YPG to pull out of. The YPG insists those areas are part of their own terriritoty, and there’s no way it will pull out. That will likely increase tension.”
Jeb el-Kussa is located 14km south of Jarablus and is controlled by fighters from the area backed by Kurdish forces.
Turkish army clashes with Kurdish militas, Tukrish soldier killed
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks, and warplanes entered one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbor.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made it clear that the aim of “Operation Euphrates Shield” is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG from seizing more territory along the border and filling the void left by ISIS as it is about eliminating the hardline group itself.
On Satuday, Turkish jets and artillery have targeted Kurdish forces south of the strategic town of Jarablus, according to a monitor and local sources, as Turkey continues a major military offensive inside northern Syria.
The strikes came as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels clashed with SDF alliance, which consists mainly of Kurdish militas, on the ground.
The Jarablus Military Council, which is allied with the SDF, said the air strikes in Amarneh marked an “unprecedented and dangerous escalation” after Turkish artillery shelling targeted Kurdish YPG forces, the backbone of the SDF alliance, on Friday.
The council said there were injuries, without giving any further details, but warned that the escalation threatened to “endanger the future of the region” and vowed to stand its ground.
Later on Saturday, one Turkish soldier and three others were wounded in a rocket attack on a Turkish tank south of Jarablus late on Saturday.
Turkey’s military sources said the rocket was fired from territory held by the Kurdish YPG.
Earlier on Saturday, the Northern Sun Battalion, an SDF faction, had said in a statement that it was heading to “Jarablus fronts” to help the council against “threats made by factions belonging to Turkey”.
Ankara has long accused the YPG, or the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, of being linked to Kurdish fighters in its own southeast.
It has ordered the group to withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates River, which crosses the Syria-Turkey border at Jarablus.
Kerry said late on Friday in Geneva that the US had supported Kurdish fighters on a “limited basis” and remained in close coordination with Turkey.
“We are for a united Syria. We do not support an independent Kurd initiative.”
And while battles between Turkish-backed rebels and Kurdish forces increase to the west of the Euphrates, Kurdish sources said Turkey had also crossed into Syria near Kobane, a symbolic town to the east of the Euphrates, to begin constructing a wall.
“Basically the aim is to shut down all cross-border activity. To stop the cross-border smuggling and to strangle the Kurdish administration.”