ISTANBUL/AMMAN – Turkey said a Kurdish militia killed two people in mortar attacks from northern Syria on Monday, in an escalation of cross-border retaliation following Turkish airstrikes over the weekend and a deadly bombing raid in Istanbul a week ago.
Turkish forces said they would respond, and a senior security official told Reuters that Turkish jets had started hitting targets in northern Syria again.
In the latest in a string of rebellion attacks, multiple mortar shells hit a border district in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, leaving a child and a teacher among the dead and at least six wounded, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
A pregnant woman originally reported dead was seriously injured and is being treated in hospital, Soylu later said.
Local governor Davut Gul said five rockets hit a school, two houses and a truck near the Karkamis border area. CNN Turk broadcaster said the attack was launched from Syria’s Kobani area, which is controlled by the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia.
Turkish warplanes carried out strikes in Syria and Iraq on Sunday, destroying 89 targets linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG, which Ankara says is a wing of the PKK.
In a statement, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said 184 militants were killed in operations on Sunday and Monday. The operations were said to have included airstrikes and land-fired weapons.
Turkey said its weekend operation was in retaliation for last week’s Istanbul bombing that killed six people and for which authorities blamed Kurdish militants. The PKK-YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied their involvement in the November 13 bombing of a busy pedestrian street.
Washington has allied itself with the SDF in its fight against the Islamic State in Syria, creating a deep and enduring rift with NATO ally Turkey.
The United States has urged a de-escalation in Syria and said it opposes “any uncoordinated military action in Iraq that violates Iraq’s sovereignty,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
An SDF spokesman had said that Turkish strikes over the weekend destroyed grain elevators, a power plant and a hospital, killing 11 civilians, an SDF fighter and two guards. It also said it would take revenge.
During the weekend’s violence, eight Turkish security forces were injured in YPG rocket attacks from Syria’s Tal Rifat on a police post near a border gate in Kilis province, Ankara said.
On Monday, Turkey attacked a Syrian army outpost west of Kobani, where a YPG army barracks are located, an SDF source said. The outpost is one of several where the Syrian Army was deployed to prevent the Turks from attacking the SDF.
Turkey has backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and severed diplomatic ties with Damascus early in the 11-year conflict.
Turkish forces have conducted several large-scale military operations against the YPG, PKK and Islamic State in northern Iraq and northern Syria in recent years.
President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s operations would not be limited to an air campaign and could involve ground forces.
“Our Ministry of Defense and our General Staff decide together how many land forces should participate. We conduct our deliberations and then take appropriate steps,” he was quoted as saying by Turkish media on a flight from Qatar.
The PKK launched an uprising against the Turkish state in 1984 that killed more than 40,000 people. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. – Reuters