Middle East Turkey escalates offensive in Syria as casualties rise

Turkey escalates offensive in Syria as casualties rise
A Turkish army tank stands in the Esme village west of the Kurdish town of Kobani, Aleppo Province, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo: Associated Press)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The Turkish Army stepped up its ground and aerial attacks on Islamic State (IS) targets in northern Syria on Thursday and Friday as the number of its soldiers killed in at least one suspected Syrian airstrike rose to five.

Turkish warplanes staged seven airstrikes near the IS-held town of al-Bab that destroyed two command centers, three fighting positions, one car bomb, and one ammunition store, according to the government-run Anadolu Agency.

The attacks came as the number of Turkish soldiers killed rose to four in what the General Staff earlier said was an airstrike by Syrian jets that coincided with the first anniversary of the Turkish shoot down of a Russian aircraft.

On the 94th day of the Turkish incursion dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield,” tanks and artillery targeted over 90 IS positions as the Islamist Free Syrian Army (FSA) units fought on in the northern outskirts of al-Bab, some 20 miles south of the border.

Another soldier was later killed, and five others were wounded in action against the IS in a location the Army did not disclose.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the state-run TRT television that “the interlocutors were warned in the clearest terms” not to repeat an attack on his country’s army.

The PM did not specify whether he referred to Russian or Syrian officials.

“This incident will never make us give up our aims in that area. There, we are not only clearing [IS] but also preventing PYD elements from uniting Manbij with Afrin from the south,” said Yildirim.

Al-Bab has gained strategic importance as Kurdish forces, the Turkish army, and the Syrian regime are racing to capture it.

Long accused of turning a blind eye to the IS rule on its southern border and a flow of foreign fighters in those areas, Turkey began fighting the group in late August.

The battle began only after the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units and its multi-ethnic surrogate alliance of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured Manbij.

The offensive followed a Russo-Turkish reconciliation after half a year of unsettling animosity over the shoot down of a Sukhoi Su-24 where one Russian pilot and one marine were killed.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany