Turkiye steps up airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq after 12 soldiers were killed

Smokes billows in Qamishli in northeastern Syria close to the Turkish border on December 25, 2023, amid Turkish military strikes in the area. Turkish air strikes killed six civilians in Syria’s Kurdish-held northeast on December 25, 2023, a war monitor and local media said, as Ankara launched operations in Iraq and Syria following deadly attacks on its soldiers
| Photo Credit: AFP

Turkey intensified its airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and northern Iraq in retaliation for the deaths of 12 Turkish soldiers in Iraq over the weekend.

The Turkish defense ministry said in a statement Monday that it had killed at least 26 militants in the strikes.

In Qamishili, in northeast Syria, at least six civilians were killed in Turkish airstrikes Monday, according to a local hospital official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. A statement by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based war monitor, also said six civilians were killed.

The observatory reported that 11 other civilians were wounded in the strikes.

Turkey has carried out 124 strikes in northeast Syria in 2023, killing 92 people, according to the Observatory.

On Friday, Turkish officials said militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s, attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. They said six Turkish soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight. The following day, six more Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdish militants.

In response, Ankara launched strikes on dozens of sites it said were associated with the PKK. Some of the strikes hit oil industry sites and vital infrastructure in northeast Syria, reducing electricity production by 50% on Saturday, according to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, a Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria that Turkey claims is affiliated with the PKK but which is a key ally of the United States.

Turkey and Washington both consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The Kurdish administration in its statement urged the United Nations to intervene, warning that the Turkish attacks could threaten the region’s security. It said that one of the strikes had hit a site near the Alaya prison in Qamishli, which houses IS members.

Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on X, formerly Twitter, condemned Turkey’s “targeting of infrastructure and civilians’ means of livelihood” in northeast Syria.

There was no immediate comment from Iraqi officials on the strikes.

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