Turkish army returns Syrian Kurdish PYD fire
ANKARATurkish security forces returned fire into Syrian territory controlled by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) on Feb. 13 and killed one militant of the group, the Turkish Armed Forces stated on Feb. 14.
It said the clash occurred at a border post in the Nusaybin area of the southeastern province of Mardin, across the border from an area controlled by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the PYD, which Ankara considers both to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus terrorist organizations.
Turkey launched its ongoing Euphrates Shield operation on Aug. 24, 2016, in an attempt to “free its border with Syria of terrorist organizations” including the PYD and the YPG along with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
At least 26 ISIL militants were killed, wounded or captured in northern Syria over the 24 hours up to the morning of Feb. 14, the Turkish military said in a separate statement.
A statement from the General Staff said 135 ISIL targets - including shelters, headquarters, defensive positions and vehicles - were hit by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters and the Turkish army.
The Turkish Air Forces also destroyed 42 buildings used by the jihadist group and a vehicle carrying a bomb, the statement added.
The Euphrates Shield operation, in which Turkish forces are backing FSA fighters, is currently trying to take the town of al-Bab, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the Turkish border, from ISIL after encircling the jihadists from the north, west and east.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have also come nearby of al-Bab from the city’s south.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım claimed on Feb. 14 that the former ISIL bastion of al-Bab in northern Syria was now “largely” under the control of Ankara-backed Syrian rebels after months of clashes with jihadists.
“Al-Bab has largely been taken under control. Our aim is to prevent the opening of corridors from territories controlled by terrorist organizations to Turkey. Our efforts from the start have not been for nothing, we have reached our aim,” Yıldırım told his party lawmakers during a parliamentary meeting in Ankara on Feb. 14.
After a rapid advance retaking several towns close to the border, the Euphrates Shield operation faced the biggest challenge in the campaign so far with dozens of Turkish soldiers killed in the space of a few weeks.
But at the weekend, Ankara-backed fighters entered the town center and state-run Anadolu Agency said that by Feb. 13 they had recaptured around 40 percent of the town.
Meanwhile, FSA rebels and al-Assad’s forces have created a security corridor to avoid clashes in the battle to capture the al-Bab from ISIL militants, daily Hürriyet reported on Feb. 14.