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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 5 April, 2020

First Turkish soldier killed in offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria

Seven civilians including a nine-month-old baby were killed in Turkish border towns and nearly 70 people were injured.

Image: Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua News Agency/PA

TURKEY HAS SAID that one of its soldiers was killed in northern Syria, the first such fatality in its offensive against a Kurdish militia.

Three more soldiers were injured in the “operation region”, the defence ministry said in a statement after clashes with the militia yesterday. It gave no further details.

Fighting broke out in several locations along the roughly 120-kilometre wide front where operations are focused, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Kurdish military official said.

The ministry’s statement comes after shelling from the militia into Turkey and Turkish military strikes in northern Syria, with casualties on both sides.

Seven civilians including a nine-month-old baby were killed in Turkish border towns in Sanliurfa and Mardin provinces. Nearly 70 were injured.

Turkey Wednesday began an air and ground offensive supporting Syrian rebels against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Ankara has long opposed US support for the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, arguing the militia is a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.

 According to the UK-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, at least 29 fighters and 10 civilians have been killed in the war-ravaged country since the start of the assault.

US President Donald Trump has suggested Washington could mediate between Turkey and Kurdish groups. 

“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard financially and with sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” he tweeted.

“I hope it’s going to be the last one,” he told reporters later.

This added third option was the latest twist in the president’s changing stance regarding the fate of Kurdish militias that until recently were fighting alongside US troops in Syria.

After coming under fierce criticism from his own party, Trump said he intended to limit Turkey’s offensive with the threat of economic sanctions.

However it is unclear what the limits for him would be other than that he wants the offensive deep into Syrian territory to be “humane.”

- © AFP 2019.

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