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New Turkish cross-border operation in northern Syria looms large after air strikes on military posts: Sources

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)
In this file picture, Turkish soldiers gather in the village of Qaminas, about six kilometers (3.7 miles) southeast of Idlib city in northwestern Syria. (Photo by AFP)

The Turkish military is apparently preparing for a new cross-border offensive in neighboring Syria, after three Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed and six wounded in a Turkish air strike on military posts in the Arab country’s northern province of Aleppo.

Local sources, asking not to be named, told Syria’s official news agency SANA that Turkish forces have used loudspeakers in mosques in border areas close to Jarabulus city to ask people to stay indoors in preparation for the operation.

The sources added that numerous Turkish combat drones could be seen flying in the skies over areas in proximity to the frontier, and Turkish troops are rapidly mobilizing in most of the border towns of Hasakah, Raqqah and Aleppo provinces.

The developments come as the Turkish military has stepped up its attacks on Syrian border areas in recent days.

SANA reported on Tuesday that Turkish warplanes targeted Syrian military posts in the Aleppo countryside from 14:37 p.m. local time to 15:00 p.m. (1137-1200 GMT).  

Syrian armed forces responded to the strike and caused material and human losses in some Turkish military sites, the report said without giving any further details.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish side.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 17 people were killed in the Turkish air strike that hit a Syrian outpost near the Turkish border, including both Syrian army forces and Kurdish militants.

The Britain-based war monitor said the airstrike targeted the outpost in the village of Jarqali, west of the Kurdish-held border town of Kobani.

The strike followed an overnight flare-up between Turkish forces and Kurdish-led militants affiliated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that control the area.

On August 8, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at his country’s plan for a new cross-border operation in Syria to remove members of the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militant group, which is the backbone of the SDF.

“We will continue our fight against terrorism. Our decision to establish a 30-kilometer-deep (18.6-mile) secure line along our southern border is final,” Erdogan said in an address to Turkish diplomats attending the 13th Ambassadors Conference in the capital Ankara.

Last month, Erdogan stated that a new Turkish operation against the YPG militants will remain on the agenda until security concerns are addressed.

Both Iran and Russia, which have been aiding Damascus in its anti-terror campaign, have warned Turkey against launching such an offensive.

Turkey has deployed forces in Syria in violation of the Arab country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Ankara-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019 after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push YPG fighters away from border areas.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials have said Damascus will respond through all legitimate means available to Turkey's ongoing ground offensive.

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