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Two Turkish soldiers killed, two wounded in attack in northern Syria: Ministry

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Turkish military vehicles heading towards the northern Syrian town of al-Bab on January 9, 2017. (By Reuters)

Turkey’s Defense Ministry says two Turkish soldiers have been killed and as many wounded in an attack on their armored vehicle in northern Syria.

The ministry said in a statement shared on Twitter late Saturday that the casualties took place in the al-Bab area of Aleppo province.

The statement added that Turkish forces immediately launched retaliatory fire, saying, “After the attack on our vehicle, terrorist targets in the region were identified, immediately brought under fire and effectively hit. Our punitive shootings against terrorist positions continue.”

Turkey views the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Turkey has had a military presence in northern Syria, despite strong protest from Damascus, for the past years in a declared attempt to push Kurdish militants away from its borders.

In August 2016, Turkish troops, tanks and planes — in an operation called Euphrates Shield — crossed the border in what Ankara said was intended to push back Daesh terrorists and prevent the YPG from gaining more ground in northern Syria.

Turkish forces and Ankara-backed militants invaded several towns, including Jarablus, finally moving south to the strategic region of al-Bab.

On October 9, 2019, Turkish forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in yet another attack with the same objective.

Two weeks after the invasion began, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted the YPG had to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

The patrols have come under repeated attacks by the militants ever since.

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