Turkish air strikes hit energy infrastructure during retaliation against Kurdish militias

Turkey's latest air campaign in Syria raises tensions with Washington over US-backed militias

Oilfield destroyed in northern Syria after Turkish strike

Oilfield destroyed in northern Syria after Turkish strike
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Turkish air and drone attacks in northern Syria have hit "30 militant targets", Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Friday, as part of a wave of retaliation bombings against Kurdish militias.

Turkey admitted to bombing energy infrastructure in Kurdish-administered parts of Syria, including “an oil well, a storage facility and shelters".

It said it had neutralised many militants, adding that strikes were conducted in the Tal Rifaat, Cizire and Derik regions of northern Syria. Activists say Turkish jets also struck electricity infrastructure and a brick factory.

Later on Friday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it had killed five Turkish troops in operations waged in response to drone attacks on areas under its control.

But a Turkish defence ministry official denied the claims.

The air strikes follow an attack outside the Turkish parliament on Sunday that sent shockwaves through the political establishment and led to a mass arrest of about 1,000 suspected Kurdish separatists.

A website linked to the militant group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, said the attack was “a sacrificial action … carried out against the Turkish Interior Ministry by a team from our Immortal Brigade”.

In the past, Turkey has bombed Syrian Kurdish militias after Kurdish attacks in Turkey. The Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella organisation of militias led by the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation, has borne the brunt of these attacks.

It was backed by the US and other western powers at the height of the war against ISIS, and some US forces are co-located with the militia. A US jet shot down a Turkish drone near a US-Kurdish position on Thursday, with the Pentagon saying the unmanned aircraft had flown too close to US troops.

The offensive by Turkish fighter jets came several hours after similar drone strikes by the country’s National Intelligence Agency in Syria’s north-east in retaliation for the suicide-bomb attack by Kurdish militants from Syria in the Turkish capital over the weekend, the government said.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin called for de-escalation in northern Syria in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart while acknowledging Turkey’s “legitimate security concerns”, the Pentagon said in a statement. He affirmed a commitment to close co-ordination between the allies to prevent any risk to US forces who are in north-east Syria.

Turkey has long asked Washington to stop arming and training YPG militants while the US warned Turkey against unilateral air strikes that could threaten American personnel. For Turkey, Washington’s support for Kurdish militants in Syria remains a sore point.

Kurdish groups retain control over large areas in Syria’s north-east while Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s Damascus-based government has largely consolidated its rule elsewhere in the country with the help of Russia and Iran.

“Aerial operations were aimed at eliminating the terrorist threat emanating from northern Syria,” the Turkish Defence Ministry said, adding the air strike targeted the north-western Syrian town of Tal Rifat, from where Kurdish YPG forces have staged hit-and-run attacks on Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels.

Turkey’s last major incursion into the area was in late 2019, with the stated aim of pushing armed groups away from the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey later halted its operations after ceasefire agreements with the US and Russia.

Thursday’s air campaign also came as Turkey continues to insist on the full co-operation of Sweden in cracking down on supporters of Kurdish militants before approving its bid to join Nato.

Updated: October 06, 2023, 4:37 PM