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First Turkish soldier killed as conflict intensifies in northern Syria

A Turkish soldier waves as he drives to his base in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in Turkey on August 27. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Karkamis/Gaziantep, Turkey Aug 28, 2016, 02.20 AM (IST)

A Turkish soldier was killed and three more wounded in a rocket attack by the Kurdish militia as Turkey carried out a four-day cross border offensive against the Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the Kurdish rebels inside Syria.

The self-proclaimed Kurdish authorities in northern Syria said in a statement that the local fighters backed by Kurdish forces "destroyed two tanks and killed its crews" near the village of Al-Amarneh.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency later said one Turkish soldier was killed and three more wounded in a rocket attack by Kurdish militia on two tanks taking part in the offensive.

The dead soldier, who has not been identified, is the first confirmed Turkish fatality in the Syrian offensive.

The rocket fire came from members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Anadolu said.

Turkey considers the PYD and its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia to be terror organisations.

Tensions between Ankara and the Kurdish militia escalated on Saturday, with clashes taking place eight kilometres south of the town of Jarabulus. 

Jarablus, a border town, was recaptured from the IS this week by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, a monitoring group and Kurdish sources said.

Turkey has blamed the Kurdish militia in an increasingly combustible contest for control in the border region.

Anadolu said the Turkish army responded to the rocket attack by shelling PYD targets in Syria, without giving further details.

In a separate incident on Saturday, Kurdish militants fired four rockets at the airport in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

No casualties were reported, the Dogan news agency said.

The pro-Kurdish fighters said Turkey had for the first time carried out airstrikes on its positions.

"With this aggression, a new conflict period will begin in the region," said the Jarabulus Military Council which is linked to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Anadolu agency reported that the army had carried out strikes against a weapons arsenal and command post belonging to "terror groups".
The fighting indicates Turkey is entering into a new and more dangerous phase in Syria.

On Saturday, at the Turkish border village of Karkamis, six more tanks reportedly crossed into Syria, adding to the dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops already in the country.

Anadolu said pro-Ankara fighters, backed by Turkish troops and firepower, had now taken five more villages from IS after the capture of Jarabulus.

In Syria's northwest, at least 15 civilians were killed in barrel bomb attacks by Syrian regime aircraft on the rebel-held Maadi district in the battered city of Aleppo despite tentative plans for a 48-hour ceasefire, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said.

(WION with inputs from AFP)


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