Dozens of people were killed in Turkish bombardment in Syria on Sunday as Ankara ramped up its unprecedented offensive inside the country.
The so-called Britain-based “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” said at least 40 civilians had been killed in Turkish shelling and air strikes on two areas held by pro-Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the first report of significant civilian casualties in Turkey’s operation.
But Ankara said its raids had killed 25 Kurdish and that the army was doing everything to avoid civilian casualties. The bombardments came after Ankara suffered its first military fatality in the offensive it launched on Wednesday. The Observatory said at least 20 civilians were killed and 50 wounded in Turkish artillery fire and air strikes on the village of Jeb el-Kussa early on Sunday.
Another 20 were killed and 25 wounded, many seriously, in Turkish air strikes near the town of al-Amarneh, it added. The monitor also said at least four Kurdish fighters had been killed and 15 injured in Turkish bombardment of the two areas.
A spokesman for the local Kurdish administration said 75 civilians had been killed in both villages. “All possible measures are being taken to prevent harm to the civilian population living in the area and the maximum sensitivity is being shown on this issue,” the Turkish army said, quoted by Anadolu.
In a statement Saturday, Kurdish forces accused Ankara of seeking to “expand its occupation” inside Syria. On Saturday, a Turkish soldier was killed and three more wounded in a Kurdish attack south of Jarabulus.
Turkish media named the dead soldier as Ercan Celik, 28, and said a funeral for him would be held on Sunday in Gaziantep, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently visiting.
Turkish forces carried out their first air strikes on pro-Kurdish positions on Saturday as part of what Ankara is calling “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Turkey says that the YPG has broken a promise to return across the Euphrates River after advancing west this month, despite US guarantees.
Ankara’s military intervention in Syria has added another dimension to the country’s complex multi-front war, a devastating conflict that has killed more than 290,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.
Global powers have been pushing for 48-hour humanitarian ceasefires in the embattled city and UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has urged warring parties to announce by Sunday whether they will commit to a pause in the fighting.
The UN says it has “pre-positioned” aid to go to the city for some 80,000 people. On Saturday, the last militants were evacuated from the town of Daraya just outside Damascus.
Source: News Agencies