Turkish warplanes and artillery hit northeast Syria on the third day of an incursion that has forced tens of thousands to flee.
Heavy fighting was reported on Friday amid reports that Syrian Kurds had regained control of two of the 11 villages lost earlier. “There is heavy fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Turks on different fronts, mostly from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain,” the so-called Syria Observatory for Human Rights said. The Observatory said SDF Kurdish militants were using “tunnels, trenches and berms” in their defense operations while Turkish forces relied on airstrikes, heavy artillery and rocket fire.
Since the beginning of the Turkish invasion on Wednesday, at least 10 civilians along with least 29 Kurdish militants have been killed, according to the Observatory. Another six fighters belonging to armed groups led by Turkey have also been reported killed. The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday that it had lost one soldier and that another three had been injured, marking Turkey’s first confirmed casualties since it began the incursion.
The US granted Turkey the greenlight to launch the incursion into northeast Syria earlier this week by withdrawing its troops from Syria’s Kurdish-controlled border region. The move was seen by Kurdish forces as a “stab in the back” from their supposed ally in Washington. Ankara seeks to create a “safe zone” stretching about 120 kilometers south of the Turkish border and 30 kilometers deep into the Kurdish-controlled region in northern Syria.