Turkey unleashes deadly strikes against Syrian pro-government forces

At least 36 soldiers killed in third warplane attack on Afrin in 48 hours

Syria conflict: Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters near the city of Afrin as smoke billows from a reported Kurdish People’s Protection Units location. Photograph: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP/Getty

Syria conflict: Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters near the city of Afrin as smoke billows from a reported Kurdish People’s Protection Units location. Photograph: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP/Getty

 

Turkish warplanes struck pro-government forces in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin on Saturday, killing at least 36 soldiers, as Turkey’s assault in the Kurdish region gathered pace, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, entered Afrin last week to support the People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish militia known as YPG that is the stated target of the operation that Turkey and allied Syrian rebel fighters began in January.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, said the air strike, which hit a camp in Kafr Jina, was the third time in 48 hours that Turkish warplanes had struck pro-government forces in Afrin.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led, United States-backed alliance, said in a statement that Turkish air strikes had targeted positions held by the Syrian army’s “popular forces” from 5am to 10am. It did not specify a location and did not give a death toll.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey said his country’s forces had captured the town of Rajo from militants. The monitoring group said the Turkish army was in control of about 70 per cent of the town, 25km northwest of the city of Afrin.

The Syrian Democratic Forces statement said that a group of Turkish forces and allied Syrian factions had infiltrated Rajo, and that clashes were continuing there.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is deemed a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey. The YPG has been an important ally of the United States in the fight against Islamic State. – Reuters