Turkish-backed rebels in Syria bombed

Turkey says it believes a Syrian government aircraft has attacked Turkish-backed rebels battling Islamic State militants in northern Syria.

A military statement said a helicopter had dropped barrel bombs on rebels in the village of Tal Nayif, south-east of Dabiq, killing two and wounding five.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said such attacks would not halt its operations against IS.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

Syria is not believed to have ground forces near Tal Nayif, but it has denounced Turkey’s support of the rebel offensive with warplanes, tanks and artillery as a “dangerous escalation and flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty”.

Since late August, the rebels have driven IS militants out of the key border town of Jarablus as well as Dabiq, which holds great symbolic value to the jihadist group.

The Turkish government in Ankara says it hopes the operation will create a de facto buffer zone close to the border, to where some of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey could return.

Ankara is also seeking to contain US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, who it says are closely linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.

After reports of the Tal Nayif attack emerged, Mr Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that Turkey would not be deterred and that the rebels would press on to the IS stronghold of al-Bab, about 15km (9 miles) from their current position.

He also warned that Turkey would take measures against Kurdish fighters if they did not withdraw from the town of Manbij, 40km (25 miles) east of al-Bab, and move east of the River Euphrates.

Meanwhile, a commander of pro-Syrian government militia alliance that includes the Lebanese group Hezbollah warned Turkey against any advance towards their positions to the north and east of the divided city of Aleppo.

A statement sent to the Reuters news agency, which did not identify the commander, said any such move would be seen as a breach of “red lines” and be met “decisively and with force”.

 

 -BBC

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