Middle East

Turkish soldiers killed in mortar attack near Syria border: Defense Ministry

Turkey’s defense ministry says two Turkish soldiers have been killed in a mortar attack near a military base on the Syrian border.

The ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the Turkish soldiers had a day earlier been targeted in the country’s border town of Akcakale in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa.

Turkish artillery units returned fire immediately after the attack and operations in the region continued, according to the statement.

The ministry provided no further details on the incident.

The targeted military base is across from the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, which Turkey’s forces and their allied militants recently seized from the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militant group.

Turkish army forces on October 9 launched a cross-border offensive into northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to clear YPG militants from a 32-kilometer “safe zone” in border areas.

Ankara regards the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in the Anatolian country since 1984.

Thirteen days into the operation, Turkey and Russia reached an agreement under which YPG militants would pull back 30 kilometers south of Turkey’s border with Syria, and security forces from Turkey and Russia would carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent the militants from reemerging there.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed 218 civilians, including 18 children, since its outset. The fighting has also wounded more than 650 people.

The Syrian government has strongly condemned the Turkish offensive as an act of aggression.

The Turkish military has previously launched two cross-border incursions into northern Syria — in 2016 and in 2018.

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