Turkish jets pounded U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia targets in northern Syria and killed up to 200 militants, state media quoted the military as saying Thursday.
The warplanes hit 18 targets in Maarrat Umm Hawsh, a region north of the city of Aleppo, the official news agency Anadolu said.
The army claimed 160 to 200 militants from the YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia were killed in the strikes on Wednesday night.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the raids. It named the bombed villages as al-Hasiya, Um al-Qura and Umm Hawsh. They lie around 30 km west of al-Bab, the last big town held by ISIS in northwest Syria.
Commander Mahmoud Barkhadan of the YPG said Turkish tanks have been shelling the Kurdish-led forces in the area since early Wednesday. Barkhadan said jets joined the attack Wednesday night and continued to pound his forces in the area.
He said, however, that early reports suggest no more than 10 fighters have been killed and 20 wounded. There was no word on civilian casualties yet.
Anadolu said nine buildings used as YPG headquarters, meeting points, shelters and weapons depots were destroyed as well as four vehicles.
Ankara sees the YPG and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as terror groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Tensions between Turkey and the U.S. have increased over the YPG whom Washington views as an effective force against ISIS in Syria.
But Ankara has repeatedly said it will not allow a “terror corridor” on its southern border and wants to prevent the joining of the Kurdish “cantons” of Afrin and Kobane.
Turkey launched an unprecedented military operation in northern Syria on August 24, sending tanks and striking jihadist targets while supporting Syrian opposition fighters retake ISIS-controlled territory.
The goal of the operation was to remove ISIS from its border — which last month Ankara said it achieved — while also aiming to halt the westward advance of the YPG.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday Turkey would not “wait for terrorist organizations to come and attack us” during a speech in Ankara.
“These organizations, wherever their activities are, wherever they are nesting, we will go (there),” he said.