ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish forces fired howitzer shells across the border into Syria’s Ayn al Arab region on Wednesday, killing four Kurdish militants, state broadcaster TRT said.
The barrages were launched from Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa, along the Syrian border, TRT said. Six other militants were wounded in the strikes on the region, which is also known as Kobani.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls much of northern and eastern Syria, said it returned fire after Turkish forces targeted positions along the border.
The SDF alliance, which the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia spearheads, said it hit a Turkish military vehicle and reserved the “right to respond to all kinds of attacks.”
Turkey has repeatedly warned it would launching a cross-border offensive against the YPG east of the Euphrates River in Syria, if the U.S. military which supports the Kurdish fighters does not ensure their withdrawal.
On Tuesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said he crush Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates, where Ayn al Arab is also located, announcing an offensive against the U.S. allies.
Over the past two years, Turkish forces have already swept into Syria to push YPG fighters out of territory west of the Euphrates in two separate military campaigns.
Past offensives halted at the banks of the river, in part to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, which has troops alongside the Kurdish fighters further east.
But Erdogan said Turkey was now prepared to press on, issuing what he said was a “final warning” last week to those who would endanger Turkey’s borders.
He said Turkey would focus its attention on the east of the Euphrates, rather than Manbij where Turkish and U.S. forces agreed to carry out joint patrols in June.
Turkish forces had bombarded YPG positions on Sunday on the eastern shore of the Euphrates river, Anadolu said.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, additional reporting by Dahlia Nehme in Beirut; Editing by Dominic Evans and Angus MacSwan. Image posted to Flickr by Kurdishstruggle.