Members of emergency services evacuate an injured man on a stretcher on January 18, 2016 after mortar shells landed near a school in Kilis killing at least one person. Ilhas News Agency/AFP
Members of emergency services evacuate an injured man on a stretcher on January 18, 2016 after mortar shells landed near a school in Kilis killing at least one person. Ilhas News Agency/AFP

Rocket fire from Syria slams into school in Turkey border town



Istanbul // At least one person was killed and one more seriously wounded on Monday when a rocket fired from an extremist-controlled area in Syria slammed into a schoolyard in a Turkish border town.

A female school cleaner was killed and a schoolgirl required an operation for her injuries in the strike on the town of Kilis just north of the border with Syria, the local governor’s office said.

The town was hit by a total of three rockets, two of which fell into an open area while one more hit the yard, it said.

The rocket fire “came from Syria”, it added, without giving further details. Reports said two more were lightly wounded.

Earlier reports had described the fire as mortar shells but later Turkish media reports described the objects as Katyusha-type rockets.

Television pictures showed the casualties being taken to hospital by ambulance. Windows on the ground floor of the school had been smashed by the impact of the blast while one car was severely damaged.

“The people should not allow provocations. Kilis residents should stay calm,” Kilis mayor Hasan Kara said.

Kilis, a town of just under 100,000, lies just north of the Syrian border, some 10 kilometres from the Syrian town of Azaz.

Turkish officials have said it is the only town in Turkey with a majority of Syrians, some of the estimated 2.2 million living in Turkey who have fled the civil war at home.

That area of northern Syria south of Kilis has in the last months been the scene of fierce clashes involving ISIL militants who have seized swathes of northern Syria.

The Hurriyet newspaper said the army had ascertained the fire had come from an area in Syria controlled by ISIL and the armed forces had already returned fire on ISIL-controlled positions.

Turkey has said it is working to push ISIL out of the border zone, which the extremist group controlled on the Syrian side for much of 2015.

A suicide bomber who the Turkish authorities say was a member of ISIL last week killed 10 German tourists in the centre of Istanbul, the first time that foreigners have been targeted by such an attack in Turkey.

Turkish ground forces then pounded some 500 positions of ISIL in Syria and Iraq with artillery and tank fire over a 48-hour period, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Turkey has often been criticised by its Western allies for not doing enough to combat ISIL.

But Ankara last year stepped up its involvement in the US-led coalition against ISIL, hosting American war planes at its Incirlik air base for deadly raids against the extremists and conducting air strikes of its own.

In easterb Syria on Monday ISIL captured ground from Syrian government forces near the city of Deir Ezzor on Monday, a group monitoring the war said, pressing a three-day assault which state media says has killed 300 people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was still no word on the fate of over 400 people it reported kidnapped when ISIL began to attack government-held areas of the city on Saturday. State media has made no mention of the abductions.

Deir Ezzor is the main city in a province of the same name. The province links ISIL’s de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa with territory controlled by the militant group in neighbouring Iraq.

ISIL, in control of most of Deir Ezzor province, has laid siege since March to remaining government-held areas in the city of Deir Ezzor.

This is the third day of ISIL attacks on the towns of Ayyash and Begayliya, which lie to the north-west of Deir Ezzor city on the approach from Raqqa.

ISIL has now taken control of areas in the south and west of Begayliya, and has seized the Saeqa military camp near the town of Ayyash, the Observatory said.

A Syrian official source told Reuters the Syrian army repelled the attacks but ISIL is continuing the offensive.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said on Sunday that at least 300 people, including women and children, had been killed during the attacks in Deir Ezzor.

The Observatory says around 400 people said to have been kidnapped have been taken to countryside to the west of the city, closer to Raqqa.

The United Nations has warned that around 200,000 besieged residents in Deir Ezzor face severe food shortages and sharply deteriorating conditions.

*Agencies

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