Turkey steps up Syria strikes as rival rebels clash near Jarablus

AFP, France 24 and Reuters

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-08-27

Turkey destroyed an arsenal and command post belonging to “terror groups” in strikes on northern Syria on Saturday, the Anadolu news agency said, as Syrian rebels backed by Ankara clashed with a rival group allied to Kurdish forces.

The Turkish state-run agency did not say if the fire was from artillery or war planes or which groups were targeted. It said the fire hit targets south of the town of Jarablus, which was taken from theIslamic State (IS) group by Turkish-backed rebels on Wednesday.

Dogan, another Turkish news agency, quoted unnamed military sources as saying one soldier was killed and three more were wounded in a rocket attack on two Turkish tanks near Jarablus later on Saturday.

As well as fighting IS group jihadists, Turkey‘s offensive in Syria is aimed at countering the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, which is also battling the IS group.

Pro-Kurdish rebels in Syria had earlier said that they had been the target of Turkish air strikes Saturday morning, which followed shelling by Turkish tanks late on Thursday.

“Turkish jets have this morning bombarded our positions in southern Jarablus and the al-Amarna village,” said the Jarablus Military Council, which is linked to the pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by the YPG.

“With this aggression, a new conflict period will begin in the region,” it said.

Witnesses in Karkamis, a Turkish town on the other side of the border from Syria’s Jarablus, saw warplanes flying from Turkish air space early on Saturday into Syria and then heard several blasts. The identity of the planes was not clear.

An AFP correspondent at the border also six Turkish tanks cross into Syria on Saturday morning, bringing to 50 the number of tanks deployed on Syrian territory since the start of Ankara’s offensive.

Rival rebels clash

Also on Saturday, Syrian rebels backed by Turkey clashed with Kurdish-backed rebels in the al-Amana area, sources on both sides said, though they gave conflicting accounts of who was involved.

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said pro-Ankara rebels backed by Turkish tanks had advanced on the village, where they clashed with the Jarablus Military Council.

The administration’s media office said the rebels were fighting alongside the Turkish tanks, and Kurdish forces had no role in the fighting.

The leader of the Turkey-backed Sultan Murad group however told Reuters the rebels were battling the Kurdish YPG on the outskirts of al-Amarna, denying any Turkish tanks were involved.

Turkey wants to stop Kurdish forces gaining control of a continuous stretch of territory along its southern border, which Ankara fears could be used to support the Kurdish militant group PKK that is fighting an insurgency on Turkish soil.

But the Kurdish-dominated SDF alliance is backed by the United States, putting Ankara at odds with its NATO ally in the engagement in Syria, where a multi-faceted conflict has raged for five years.

Includes video:



Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016. Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office/Handout via REUTERS

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