Turkish shelling kills three in Syrian town

Beirut: Turkish shelling has killed three people in the Syrian town of Ras Al Ain, the spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Tuesday, pointing to the risk of widening hostilities along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkey has launched a major offensive against the US-backed YPG militia, which controls large parts of northern Syria. Ankara sees the group as an extension of a Kurdish group that has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.

Ras Al Ain is located in Syrian Kurdish-controlled territory some 300km east of the Afrin region where the Turkish army launched its offensive four days ago. Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies pressed an assault on a border enclave held by Kurdish militia on Tuesday but the fighting was more narrowly focused, a monitor said.

Turkish warplanes carried out new strikes on the northwest of the Afrin enclave and also hit the outskirts of the mainly Kurdish-held city of Qamishli far to the east, wounding two children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is fierce but the focus is much narrower than yesterday (Monday),” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP, adding that it was mainly concentrated in the north and the southwest of the enclave.

In the northeast of Afrin, pro-Ankara rebels entered the village of Qastal Jando, the Observatory said.

In the same area, Turkish forces and their allies had briefly captured a strategic hill on Monday but it was retaken by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the evening.

Barsaya Hill overlooks both the Syrian town of Azaz, which is held by pro-Ankara rebels, and the Turkish town of Kilis just across the border.

Ras Al Ain was one of several locations in northeastern Syria targeted in cross-border attacks from Turkey on Monday, YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said. He could not confirm if the people killed in Monday’s shelling were fighters or civilians.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

US, French concerns

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Turkey’s ground and air offensive against Afrin is distracting from international efforts to ensure the defeat of Daesh.

Mattis said it also risked worsening the humanitarian crisis there and in other parts of Syria.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also expressed concern on Tuesday about Turkey’s offensive and warned the government to show restraint in its operations against Kurdish forces in the region.


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