Turkey increases attacks on SDF, Damascus forces in north Syria

Turkey on Thursday continued to strike targets belonging to Kurdish militants and Syrian forces in northern Syria, a week before the latest round of Astana peace negotiations regarding Syria's 12-year war.

The Turkish defence ministry said it had struck sites belonging to "terrorists" - a label it gives to Kurdish-led armed groups operating in northern Syria - in Tel Rifaat and Manbij. It said 16 militants were "neutralised", a term used to denote the killing, injury or capture of enemy forces.

It followed Ankara's claim that it had "neutralised" scores of militants on Wednesday when it struck targets in the same areas.

Local media also reported that Turkey killed a Syrian regime soldier in a drone strike in Aleppo province.

Turkey also bombed military sites military sites belonging to Syrian regime forces in Aleppo province on Wednesday morning, the war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The escalation of military attacks comes a week before the latest round of the Astana conference on peace in Syria on 20 and 21 June.

More than 500,000 people have died since war was sparked by the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in 2011.

Turkey and the regime have recently held discussions on reconciliation. The regime has said it will not normalise ties with Ankara until Turkish forces leave Syria.

The deputy foreign ministers of Syria and Turkey, as well as the other key players in the war, Iran and Russia, are due to meet in Astana. 

The Astana peace talks were initiated in 2017.

Turkey accuses the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that control much of northeast Syria of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group that has fought an on-off war with Turkey for decades.

Turkish forces have invaded northern Syria on multiple occasions to clear it of Kurdish-led forces, and often conducts air and ground operations against them.

Ankara announced Wednesday that it had killed a senior member of the PKK.

Turkish intelligence agency MIT said Abdulkahar Karasac, pseudonym Aliser Ciya, ordered a 2017 attack on the Turkish city of Izmir in which Turkish police officer Fethi Sekin was killed.

It did not say when Turkish forces killed Ciya, but said he died in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK is headquartered.

On Sunday, media affiliated with the PKK carried a statement from the group's military wing, the HPG, saying that Ciya had been killed. Ciya was killed almost a year ago, in May 2022, the statement said.

Turkey's announcement of the killing came a day after the PKK said it was ending a unilateral ceasefire with Ankara, which it started after the devastating earthquakes of 6 February.

News Code 159074

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