Syria says Turkish forces attacked its troops
BEIRUT — Turkish forces and their allies attacked Syrian government troops in northeastern Syria on Thursday, killing some of them, and they also clashed with Kurdish-led fighters, the state news agency in Damascus and a war monitoring group said.
The fighting underscored the risks of violence as multiple and often opposing armed forces jostle for new positions in the tight quarters of the northeastern border zone.
Most worrisome has been the prospect of a collision between forces of the Syrian government’ and those backed by Turkey, which include Syrian rebel fighters and Islamic extremists opposed to President Bashar Assad.
All sides have said they are abiding by a ceasefire as they implement a Russian-Turkish agreement that divides up the border region. But frictions could undermine the effort for a resolution on the border, which U.S. forces were abruptly ordered to leave earlier this month, allowing Turkey to launch its invasion against Kurdish fighters.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said Turkish troops and its allied fighters attacked Syrian army positions outside the town of Tal Tamr. The Syrian troops fought back and suffered “martyrs and wounded,” it reported without elaborating. Separately, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said three of its fighters were killed in fighting with Turkish-backed forces.
Syrian forces, Russian military advisers and military police are being deployed in a zone 30 kilometres (19 miles) deep along much of the northeastern border, under an agreement reached Tuesday by Russia and Turkey. They are to ensure that Kurdish fighters leave that area. Then Russia and Turkey are to begin joint patrols along a narrower strip directly on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Turkey is to keep sole control of a large section in the centre of the border, most of which it captured in its invasion launched Oct. 9. Turkey wanted to drive the U.S.-allied Kurdish forces out of a “safe zone” along the border.