Turkish jets hit targets in Syria, Iraq after Istanbul bomb blast

Kurdish fighters report ‘deaths and injuries’ after Turkish air raids hit Kobane and two villages housing people displaced by war in Syria.

Turkish army jet
A Turkish army jet fighter escorts the plane of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he arrives at the new airport in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. Turkey's ministry of defence said on Sunday that its military planes had hit targets in Syria and Iraq [File: Presidential Press Service via AP]

Turkish military planes have hit targets in northern Syria and Iraq, bombing bases Turkey’s defence ministry claimed were used by those behind an explosion in central Istanbul last weekend that killed six people and wounded more than 80.

The Turkish defence ministry announced the launch of the raids in a statement on Twitter on Sunday.

“The hour of reckoning has come,” the Turkish defence ministry tweeted early on Sunday, along with a photo of a military plane taking off on a night-time operation, adding that those who had perpetrated the “treacherous attacks” would be held accountable.

Ankara has blamed the November 13 bomb attack in Istanbul on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and affiliated Syrian Kurdish groups. Kurdish fighters have denied involvement.

In another post accompanied by a video showing a target being selected followed by an explosion, the defence ministry said it was using “precision strikes” to destroy “terrorist hotbeds”.

“In line with our self-defence rights arising from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, the Pence Kilic air operation was carried out in the regions in the north of Iraq and Syria which are used as bases for attacks on our country by terrorists,” the ministry said.

Turkey and the United States both consider the PKK a “terrorist” group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups that have been allied with Washington in the fight against the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria.

The US State Department had said on Friday it feared possible military action by Turkey, advising its nationals not to travel to northern Syria and Iraq.

While Ankara did not give exact details of the overnight operation, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the Turkish air raids had hit Kobane (Ayn al-Arab) in northeast Syria.

Kobane, a Kurdish-majority town near the Turkish border, was captured by ISIL (ISIS) in late 2014 before Kurdish fighters drove them out early the following year.

“Kobane, the city that defeated ISIS, is subjected to bombardment by the aircraft of the Turkish occupation,” tweeted Farhad Shami, head of the SDF media centre.

The SDF spokesperson later said two villages populated with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Syria had been hit.

“The Turkish occupation aircraft are shelling the al-Beilonya village which is heavily populated with Afrin IDPs who were forcibly displaced from Afrin in 2018,” he said.

“In addition to the Dahir al-Arab village, which is populated with Ras al-Ain IDPs who were also forcibly displaced by the Turkish occupation in 2019,” he added.

The air attacks had resulted in “deaths and injuries”, he said, without specifying the toll.

The head of SDF, Mazloum Abdi, wrote on Twitter that the attacks threatened the whole region and called on people in the targeted areas to remain in their homes and await instruction from security forces.

There were no immediate comments from the governments of Syria or Iraq.

Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations in Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies