Friday , February 22 2019

Russia hits Turkey on shelling of Kurds – Ankara warns YPG over Azaz

People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria’s northern province of Idlib on Feb 15, after the building was hit by suspected Russian air strikes. MSF confi rmed in a statement that a hospital supported by the aid group in Idlib province was ‘destroyed in air strikes’. (AFP
People gather around the rubble of a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) near Maaret al-Numan, in Syria’s northern province of Idlib on Feb 15, after the building was hit by suspected Russian air strikes. MSF confi rmed in a statement that a hospital supported by the aid group in Idlib province was ‘destroyed in air strikes’. (AFP

MOSCOW, Feb 15, (Agencies): Russia said on Monday that Turkey’s shelling of Kurdish and Syrian regime positions in the north of the country was a “provocative” action. “Starting from Feb 13, Turkish artillery concentrated in border areas is carrying out massive strikes on Syrian towns recently freed from terrorists by regime forces and Kurdish militia,” a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said. “There have been many civilians killed and injured, infrastructure and residential houses destroyed,” it said. “Moscow expresses its most serious concern about aggressive actions by Turkish authorities against a neighbouring state,” the statement said. “We see it as overt support of international terrorism.”

“Russia will support discussion of this issue in the UN Security council for a clear assessment of the provocative line pursued by Ankara, which is creating a threat to peace and security in the Middle East and beyond.” Turkey on Monday was shelling for the third day positions of Kurdish fighters, accused by Ankara of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party that has waged a decadeslong insurgency against the Turkish state.

Turkey warned Kurdish militia fi ghters in northern Syria on Monday they would face the “harshest reaction” if they tried to capture a town near the Turkish border, and accused Russia of a missile attack there that killed at least 14 civilians. A major offensive supported by Russian bombing and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias has brought the Syrian army to within 25 km (15 miles) of Turkey’s border. The Kurdish YPG militia has exploited the situation, seizing ground from Syrian rebels to extend its presence along the frontier. At least 14 civilians were killed in the Syrian town of Azaz, the last rebel stronghold before the border with Turkey, when missiles hit a children’s hospital and a school sheltering refugees fleeing the Syrian army offensive, a medic and two residents said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a Russian missile had hit the buildings and that many civilians including children had been killed. Turkey shelled YPG positions for a third day to try to stop its fighters seizing Azaz, just 8 km (5 miles) from the border. Ankara fears the Kurdish militia, backed by Russia, is trying to secure the last stretch of around 100 km (60 miles) along the Syrian border not already under its control. “We will not allow Azaz to fall,” Davutoglu told reporters on his plane on the way to Ukraine, adding YPG fighters would already have taken Azaz and Tal Rifaat further south had it not been for Turkish artillery firing at them over the weekend. “If they approach again they will see the harshest reaction,” he said. The standoff has increased the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO member Turkey. Turkey is enraged by the expansion of Kurdish influence in northern Syria, fearing it will encourage separatist ambitions among its own Kurds. It considers the YPG a terrorist group.

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