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US-allied Kurds say Turks attacked them in Syria

The attack is indicative of the complicated situation in Syria, where NATO member Turkey is allied with the US against Islamic State, while the US also supports the Kurds, who support a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 24, 2016. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Turkish warplanes attacked a group allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), after Turkey earlier this week launched an offensive into northern Syria against Kurds and Islamic State forces.

Turkish tanks and special forces rolled into Jarablus earlier this week, backed by US air power and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, to expel Islamic State militants from Jarablus — a strategic border town — and to stop Kurdish militias from taking the town and moving further west along the Turkish border.


Reuters reported that the Jarablus Military Council — which is allied to the US-backed, Kurdish-led SDF — said Turkish aircraft attacked a village south of Jarablus, called al-Amarna, causing civilian casualties and conducting what the council called a "a dangerous escalation that threatens the fate of the region."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkish attack occurred after the SDF took the village from Islamic State during last week's Turkish offensive.

The attack is indicative of the complicated situation in Syria, where NATO member Turkey is allied with the US against Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the US also supports the Kurds fighting Islamic State but who also support their ethnic brethren mounting an insurgency in Turkey. The US is also allied with Syrian rebels fighting Assad and Islamic State but who have also fought against the Syrian Kurds.

Turkey in the past had allowed Islamic State militants to move back and forth across its border as part of Ankara's effort to unseat Assad, but last week's Turkish offensive represents a commitment to driving the IS militants away from the border — where several of the group's key supply and smuggling routes were located — after Islamic State mounted several mass-casualty attacks on Turkish soil.

Related: Turkey is attacking ISIS in northern Syria with help from US air power

The Turkish government made clear that the Syrian Kurds were as much a target of the Jarablus offensive as Islamic State. Syrian Kurds have established a de-facto autonomous zone in northern Syria, and have expanded that zone — with help from US airpower and special forces — as they've driven Islamic State militants from towns near the Turkish border.


That group includes fighters from the Kurdish YPG, which is the Syrian wing of a Kurdish group in Turkey called the PKK, which Ankara has outlawed and considers a terrorist organization.

Turkey is currently engaged in a war with the PKK and their allies in southeastern Turkey, and fears that further Kurdish gains in Syria could further stoke Kurdish aspirations to their own autonomous zone in in Turkey to autonomy.

The PKK claimed a bomb attack on a police station in Turkey's southeast on Friday that killed 11 officers.

In response to the alleged Turkish strike on al-Amarna, the Jarablus Military Council said, "If [the Turks] do not attack our forces, then we will keep the border strip secure."

Turkey has 50 tanks and 380 troops on the ground in Syria, Turkey's Hurriyet daily newspaper reported.

The Turkish military also said it destroyed an ammunition warehouse near Jarablus on Saturday.

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