Turkish shelling kills 20 civilians in northern Syria

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At least 20 civilians were killed Sunday by Turkish shelling against a town controlled by Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria, a monitor group reported.

Turkish airstrikes and artillery targeted the town of Bir Kousa in the countryside of the city of Jarablus in northern Syria, near the Turkish borders, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The shelling apparently aimed at undermining the Kurdish-led Jarablus Military Council, which fought against the Turkish forces in Jarablus countryside a day earlier, destroying three Turkish tanks.

Turkish special forces as well as Ankara-backed Syrian rebel groups crossed the Turkish borders into Syria last Wednesday.

The campaign marked the first outright military intervention of the Turkish army in the quagmire of the Syrian war.

The Turkish military support enabled the Syrian rebels of capturing Jarablus from the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Some observers believed fighting the IS was not the priority of Turkey, saying that Ankara fears the advance of Kurdish forces in northern Syria toward Jarablus, as the city was the next target of the Kurdish groups, which made sweeping advances against IS in northern Syria, near the Turkish borders.

On Saturday, one Turkish soldier was said to have been killed by Kurdish group attack near Jarablus.

Saturday also marked the first confrontation between the Kurdish-led groups and the Turkish-backed ones, as the later were advancing toward the Kurdish-controlled areas in southern Jarablus.

The Turkish-backed campaign came as part of Ankara's double-purpose operation, which aims at clearing the city from the IS and let Syrian rebels fill in the void before the Kurdish fighters could capture the city.

Turkey, which has more than 20 million Kurds in its southern region, has long opposed any expansion of Kurdish influence near its border, fearing the threat to its territorial integrity.

The Syrian government condemned the Turkish intervention in Syria, saying any anti-terror effort should be coordinated with the Syrian government, otherwise it's nothing but flagrant violation to the country's sovereignty.

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