Turkish military forces and their allied militants have reportedly shelled residential areas in the countryside of Syria’s northern province of Raqqah, as Turkey is apparently preparing for a new cross-border offensive in the Arab country.
The shelling struck the villages of Abu Surra, al-Dibs and the M4 international highway in the Ayn Issa subdistrict, which lie near the border with Turkey, on Friday, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported, citing local sources.
The sources added that the strikes caused material damage in the targeted areas, and disrupted traffic on the international highway.
The development took place only two days after Turkish army soldiers and their allied militants heavily shelled the northwestern Syrian city of Tell Rifaat, located roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Aleppo.
At least two civilians lost their lives and ten others sustained injuries as a result.
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 so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (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.