Foreign medic killed in north-east Syria

Aid worker was hit by shrapnel from mortar shell

TOPSHOT - Turkish and Russian military vehicles drive on a joint patrol in the countryside of Darbasiyah town in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on the Syrian-Turkish border on November 1, 2019.  Turkey started joint patrols with Russia in northern Syria today to verify whether Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a key border zone in compliance with a deal reached between the two governments. The patrols follow an agreement they signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week which gave Kurdish forces 150 hours to withdraw from a band of territory along the border, in a process that Russia said was now complete. / AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN

A Burmese medic was killed and an Iraqi humanitarian worker wounded by shelling from Turkey-backed opposition fighters attacking Kurds in north-east Syria on Sunday.

David Eubank, a former US special forces soldier and the founder of the Free Burma Rangers, said the attack occurred about 4 kilometres from the northern town of Tel Tamer.

Mr Eubank said the medic, Zau Seng, was hit in the head by shrapnel from a mortar shell that struck near by as he was filming the fighting.

“He died right away and we brought him here to Tel Tamer,” he said in a video that also showed one of the aid group’s armoured vehicles hit by shrapnel.

Mr Eubank said an Iraqi team member was wounded in the attack, which he blamed on the Free Syrian Army and Turks.

Earlier in the day, Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, tweeted that he “received terrible news” of the death of a medic with the Free Burma Rangers, blaming the Turkish army.

Turkey’s Defence Ministry denied that Turkish troops attacked the aid convoy.

The Free Burma Rangers is a multi-ethnic humanitarian group working in Burma, Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan.

Turkey last month invaded north-east Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters, who it considers terrorists because of their links to the PKK, which has fought a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting on Sunday was concentrated near the town of Zirkan in the province of Hassakeh. It said a Turkish drone attacked the Kurdish-led forces in the area.

Turkish troops pounded Zirkan with artillery shells amid fierce fighting, the Kurdish Hawar news agency said.

It said Turkey-backed fighters are trying to cut the M4 highway linking the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, with Hassakeh, and that the Syrian Kurdish fighters repelled the attacks.

The fighting continued two days after Turkey and Russia launched joint patrols in north-east Syria, under a deal that halted a Turkish offensive against Kurdish fighters who were forced to withdraw from the border area after Ankara’s incursion.

The truce has mostly held but it has been marred by accusations of breaches by both sides and occasional clashes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to resume the offensive if he deemed it necessary.