Turkey strikes Kurdish city of Afrin northern Syria, civilian casualties reported

 February 19, 2016 – ARA News – AFRIN – Turkey’s military bombed the Kurdish city of Afrin and nearby villages in northwestern Syria, causing casualties among civilians, local sources reported on Thursday.Turkish army units stationed at the border with Syria have launched an offensive on the Kurdish areas in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo, targeting Afrin and the surrounding villages with heavy artillery shelling.

“The Turkish bombardment caused ten casualties among civilians in Afrin,” member of the Democratic Council in Afrin, Rezan Hiddo, told ARA News.The attack, which took place in the midnight on Thursday, hit residential neighborhoods in Afrin and its suburbs. “Rescue teams are still looking for survivors under the rubble of damaged houses,” the source reported. “We appeal to the international community to intervene and stop the Turkish offensive on the Kurdish region in Syria,” he said. Afrin is under the control of Kurdish forces from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The city and its countryside have sheltered thousands of displaced people from war-torn Aleppo.The Turkish bombardment has also reached the villages of Deir Ballout, Hammam, Firera, Hasna, Sanar and Hakjeh –administratively linked to Afrin. Dozens of civilian casualties, including children, were reported in the heavy artillery shelling by the Turkish army on Thursday.

This comes just few days after Turkey’s military hit Kurdish fighting positions in the northern countryside of Aleppo, especially after the YPG and allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recaptured large areas from the Turkey-backed Islamist rebels.Earlier this week, Kurdish fighters of the YPG and allied rebels of Jaish al-Thuwar –both are members of the U.S.-backed SDF– had seized control of the Menagh air base and a number of villages in the northern countryside of Aleppo subsequent to fierce clashes with Islamist rebel groups. The Turkish army has bombed with heavy artillery several YPG-held villages near Azaz and Afrin over the past few days, including Menagh, Miremin, Malkiyah, Meranaz, Tannab and Kashtaar. The Turkish operations coincided with mortar shelling by Syria’s wing of al-Qaeda, Nusra Front, on the Kurdish headquarters in the same areas. Reporting by: Zozan Shekho