Turkey hits Kurdish targets in northern Iraq

A Kurdish militia fighter from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) rides on a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft weapon in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasaka, Syria, August 22, 2016. (Reuters)

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq Monday, as Ankara pressed its military operation against ISIS militants and a Syrian Kurdish militia in neighboring Syria, state media said.

Turkish air force jets launched strikes between 09:30 and 10:55 GMT against targets of the “separatist terrorist organization” in Gara in northern Iraq, Anadolu news agency said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The targets were “destroyed,” Anadolu added.

The PKK is proscribed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and its command is based in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq.

The air strikes in northern Iraq were the first since the Syria operation began on Wednesday.

Gunfire hit Kilis

A Turkish military source, meanwhile, said Ankara responded with artillery fire after rocket and gunfire from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Kilis, some 80 km (50 miles) west of where Turkish-backed Syrian militia fighters launched an incursion last week.

It was not immediately clear who fired the rocket or opened fire from the Syrian side, the source said.

Kilis lies across from Syrian territory controlled by Kurdish militia forces but also close to an area held by ISIS militants.

A second Turkish official said three rockets had hit Kilis and that four people had been wounded.

Turkish military sources on Monday also denied the army fired at Syrian Kurdish YPG militia forces in Hasaka province, after the YPG said one of their fighters was injured by shots from Turkish forces along the border.

“It’s absolutely not true,” one of the sources told Reuters, adding that there was no operation by the Turkish military near Hasaka province.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday ordered predominantly Kurdish Syrian militia forces to withdraw east of the Euphrates River “immediately” or face more strikes by Turkish forces that crossed the border last week.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s comments came as Syrian opposition groups reported that Turkish-backed Syrian militias have captured more towns and villages in northern Syria as part of the operation named “Euphrates Shield,” now in its sixth day.

Turkish tanks rolled across the border last week to help Syrian opposition fighters seize the town of Jarablus from ISIS, a move that was also aimed at deterring further advances by Kurdish-led militia forces.

Both Turkey and the United States have ordered the main Kurdish fighting force, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates.

“The YPG has to immediately cross east of the Euphrates River as they promised the United States and as they announced they would,” Cavusoglu said. “If they don't they will be a target.”

 

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