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Turkish strikes cause 'significant damage' to Syrian oil facilities: Minister

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 picture shows a view of oil production facilities at the al-Omar oil field in Syria’s eastern Dayr al-Zawr province. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Bassam Tohme says Turkish airstrikes against purported positions of the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the northeastern part of the country have caused “great damage” to oil installations.

“The brutal Turkish aggression against northern Syria has caused great damage to the oil facilities,” Tohme said during an interview with the Syrian state television.

He noted that the bombing targeted a gas plant, causing cessation of its production. 

The Syrian oil minister highlighted that the plant was processing 150 tons of natural gas for domestic use, and about one million cubic meters of gas for a power station that supplies the population of Hasakah province with electricity.”

Tohme pointed out that fuel stations were also damaged and “many wells were burned,” which led to “significant environmental pollution due to tank explosions.”

Turkish drones hit oil installations late on Wednesday near the Syrian town of Qamishli, as well as the oil-rich area Rumeilan, near which US occupation troops are located, according to three sources in the Syrian cities of Qamishli and Hasakah.

Turkey has also escalated drone strikes in the heart of urban areas, targeting senior YPG officials, said the sources, who are in touch with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Also on Thursday, the Turkish military renewed its attacks on the northern countryside of Syria’s Hasakah province, targeting residential buildings and private properties in Abu Rasin town and nearby villages with barrages of artillery rounds.

Local sources, requesting anonymity, told Syrian official news agency SANA that Turkish troops and their allied militants stationed in the villages of Aniq al-Hawa and al-Dawdiya shelled the town of Abu Rasin, and the villages of al-Rabi'at, al-Nuwaihat, Harmala and Dad Abd al-Dardara.

The sources added that the projectiles caused great damage to homes and private properties, forcing civilians to either hide in basements or leave their homes and take refuge in open areas.

Turkey has hinted at the possibility of ground operations in northern Syria and Iraq.

“The time, scale and boundaries of the operations of the Turkish Armed Forces are determined by Ankara... The operation can begin tomorrow, next week, even later, at any time. The situation is being assessed by the Turkish military and intelligence,” Turkish presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said on Tuesday.

He added that Ankara coordinated its actions with Moscow during the air operation in the region.

“These issues are being discussed regarding our plans for air force operations. How did we enter the airspace in Tell Rifaat? We discussed this (with Russia), coordinated our actions. We plan, discuss, coordinate, act,” Kalin said.

The spokesman also stressed that his country continues to maintain dialogue with Damascus.

Turkey's threat of military operation comes as Ankara has blamed the November 13 bomb attack at a bustling avenue in the heart of Istanbul on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and its Syrian affiliate of the YPG militant group, which is the backbone of the SDF. Kurdish forces have denied any involvement.

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 militants away from border areas.

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.

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

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