Turkish air strikes ‘kill at least 40 civilians in Syria’

Turkey launched an operation in Syria to drive Isis and Kurdish rebel groups back from border regions earlier this week 

Alexandra Sims
Sunday 28 August 2016 09:20 BST

Turkish air strikes and artillery attacks have killed at least 40 civilians, and wounded dozens more, according to a group monitoring the Syrian war.

The strikes took place on Sunday in northern Syria, where Turkey and allied Syrian rebels are fighting Kurdish-allied militias.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 20 civilians were killed and 50 had been wounded in Turkish artillery fire and air strikes in the village of Jeb el-Kussa, south of Jarabulus, an area controlled by militias allied to the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The observatory added that another 20 had been killed and 25 wounded in Turkish air strikes near the town of al-Amarneh, AFP reports.

It also said at least four Kurdish fighters had been killed and 15 injured in the attacks on both areas.

Anadolu, Turkey's official press agency said Turkish air strikes killed 25 Kurdish “terrorists” and destroyed five buildings used by the fighters in the Jarabulus area.

The Turkish military is “taking every precaution and showing maximum sensitivity to ensure that civilians living in the area are not harmed,” Anadolu reported.

It remains unclear whether the reports refer to the same incidents.

The attack comes after Turkey suffered its first loss of life since launching an operation in Syria to drive Isis and Kurdish rebel groups back from border regions, which is now in its fifth day.

The observatory said the bombardment targeted an area south of Jarabulus, a former Isis stronghold, which Turkish-led forces captured on the first day of the offensive, code named “Euphrates Shield”.

The operation started as an effort to push Isis out of the Syrian city of Jarabulus, but officials have been vocal about the twin aim to oust Kurdish militias the Government views as terrorists.

It is the first Turkish ground intervention in the Syrian conflict and targeted both Isis and Syrian-Kurdish rebels backed by the US.

ANHA, the news agency of the Kurdish semi-autonomous areas, said the town of Beir Khoussa, around nine miles south of Jarabulus, has “reportedly lost all its residents” following the bombardments on Sunday.

An SDF spokesman Shervan Darwish said the air strikes and shelling started overnight and continued into Sunday killing many civilians in the town and nearby areas.

He said the bombing also targeted al-Amarneh village and that 50 Turkish tanks had been involved in the offensive.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that 20 civilians were killed and 50 wounded in Turkish artillery shelling and air strikes, calling it Turkish “encroachment” on Syrian sovereignty under the pretext of fighting Isis.

Various factions of the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels said on Sunday they had seized at least four villages and one town from Kurdish-led forces south of Jarabulus.

One of the villages to change control was al-Amarneh, where clashes erupted for the first time between Turkish forces backed by tanks and pro-Kurdish fighters on Saturday.

The coalition-supported SDF Jarabulus Military Council said air strikes struck homes and killed civilians in the town, calling it “a dangerous escalation that threatens the fate of the region.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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