Turkish raids on Syria kill 40 civilians

Turkish soldiers with tanks return from Syria to Turkey after a military operation at the Syrian border as part of their offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group in Syria, Karkamis district of Gaziantep, Turkey, on
Turkish soldiers with tanks return from Syria to Turkey after a military operation at the Syrian border as part of their offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group in Syria, Karkamis district of Gaziantep, Turkey, on Aug 27. PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT • Turkish shelling and air strikes killed at least 40 Syrian civilians yesterday, a monitor said, in the first significant civilian casualties in Turkey's intensifying campaign in northern Syria.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the army had killed 25 Kurdish "terrorists" in air strikes as part of its unprecedented operation inside Syria. The bombardments came after Ankara suffered its first military fatality since it launched the two-pronged offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and Syrian Kurdish militia inside Syria last Wednesday.

At least 20 civilians were killed and 50 wounded in Turkish artillery fire and air strikes on the village of Jeb el-Kussa early yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Another 20 were killed and 25 wounded, many seriously, in Turkish air strikes near the town of Al-Amarneh, it said.

The monitor also said at least four Kurdish fighters had been killed and 15 injured in Turkish bombardment of the two areas.

A spokesman for the local Kurdish administration said 75 people had been killed in both villages.

The Britain-based Observatory said the bombardment targeted an area south of the former ISIS border stronghold of Jarabulus, which Turkish-led forces captured on the first day of the incursion.

Fighting has since intensified south of the town, where clashes erupted between Turkish troops and forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) party, which Ankara considers a terrorist group linked with Kurdish militants in Turkey.

United States-backed Kurdish forces have also been fighting ISIS in Syria but Turkey fiercely opposes any move by Kurds to expand into territory lost by the militants.

The latest fighting is likely to raise deep concerns for Turkey's Nato ally, the US, which supports the Kurdish militia - known as the People's Protection Units - as an effective fighting force against ISIS.

Ankara's military intervention in Syria has added another dimension to the country's complex multi- front war, a devastating conflict that has killed more than 290,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Turkish raids on Syria kill 40 civilians'. Print Edition | Subscribe