JEDDAH: At least 19 civilians were killed in northern Syria on Friday in an upsurge in violence along the border with Turkey.
Artillery fire by Assad regime forces hit a busy market in the border town of Al-Bab, which is under the authority of Turkish-controlled Syrian fighters, killing 15 people.
In the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northeast Syria, four children were killed and 11 were injured in a Turkish strike on a rehabilitation centre for girls near the city of Hasakeh.
The new bloodshed comes against a backdrop of increased tensions pitting Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces backed by the regime against Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor in Britain that has a network of sources in Syria, said the shelling that hit Al-Bab originated from Assad regime positions. A spokesman for the SDF denied any involvement.
The strike ripped through the market area and witnesses described a jumble of body parts, strewn vegetables and mangled handcarts.
Violence between Turkey and Syria’s Kurds escalated this week with a deadly Turkish strike killing 17 regime and Kurdish fighters in retaliation for Kurdish fire inside Turkey.
Ankara considers the main Kurdish component of the SDF — allied with the US against Daesh militants —to be a terrorist organisation with links to the outlawed PKK.
The warring factions in Syria’s 11-year conflict have carved up the north into a patchwork of zones of control. Al-Bab is within the areas of Aleppo province held by Turkish-backed rebels. Other parts are held by Assad regime troops backed by Russia.
The SDF, spearheaded by Kurdish groups who have opened a dialogue with the regime in Damascus, also control parts of the north and northeast.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a new military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria, but has failed to obtain a green light from allies Iran and Russia.
Erdogan insisted on Friday that Turkey did not intend to seize any Syrian territory despite stepping up its attacks against Kurdish forces.
“We do not have eyes on the territory of Syria because the people of Syria are our brothers,” Erdogan said. “The regime must be aware of this.”
But he also hinted that Turkey may be open to a reproachment with Assad after fiercely opposing his regime.“There should be no resentment in politics,” he said.