Turkish fighter jets bombed military targets near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane on Tuesday, resulting in several casualties from the Syrian army.
Syria’s state-controlled SANA news agency reported three dead and six wounded soldiers in the airstrike, while Kurdish-focused Hawar News Agency reported 16 soldiers dead, citing local sources. Hawar also reported civilian casualties, including one child, and four children wounded.
Meanwhile, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported 17 fighters dead, saying the number of those affiliated with the Syrian government or Kurdish forces were unclear. SOHR also reported six wounded journalists.
The airstrike was part of Turkey’s support for Syrian opposition groups, SANA reported, citing an unnamed Syrian military source. The source also said that the Syrian army would retaliate “any attack on a military point”.
The Turkish Defence Ministry reported killing five Kurdish fighters who “opened harassing fire” on Turkish forces in Syria on Tuesday following the airstrike, and another four on Wednesday. The ministry also reported two Turkish soldiers killed on Tuesday and Wednesday, a sergeant and a private respectively.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main fighting force in the Kurdish areas, reported 13 of its fighters killed in Turkish attacks since July, SOHR said.
Regime forces re-entered northern Syria in 2019, as part of a deal between Russia and Syria following a Turkish military operation. Syria’s army had withdrawn from the region after civil war broke out in 2011, and the area came into Kurdish control.
Turkey has been adamant in demanding Syrian President Bashar al Assad step down since the beginning of the civil war, however, top government officials have admitted to restarting communications with Assad’s government. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters last week that he had a “brief chat” with his Syrian counterpart in Belgrade.
Ankara failed to get the greenlight from Moscow or Washington for the large scale military operation it had been planning in north and east Syria, but drone strikes and artillery shelling from the Turkish side has increased significantly in recent weeks.