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Turkish troops, Kurdish militia clash in Idlib Open in fullscreen

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Turkish troops, Kurdish militia clash in Idlib

YPG clashed with Turkish army in Idlib on Monday [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2017

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Kurdish militia fighters, YPG, fired five mortars at an observation post in Idlib staffed by Turkish troops to which the Turkish army fired back at the YPG

The Turkish army and Kurdish militia exchanged fire on Monday in the northern Syrian province of Idlib where Ankara's troops are stationed as observers, the first report of such an incident in the area, state media said.

Kurdish militia fighters fired five mortars at an observation post in Idlib staffed by Turkish troops, Turkish Anadolu News Agency said. No casualties were reported and the mortars did not hit their target, it added.

In response, the Turkish army fired towards Kurdish militia-held positions around the town of Afrin, it added.

Turkish troops are deployed in Idlib as part of an agreement with Iran and Russia to implement four so-called de-escalation zones in flashpoint areas around Syria.

Up until the deployment of Turkish troops in mid-October, Idlib had largely been controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate.

The incident comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria in Sochi on Wednesday.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch a military operation on Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) militia considered by Turkey to be a terror group.

Ankara views the YPG as the Turkish branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkish troops have repeatedly clashed with the YPG in Aleppo province, especially during Ankara's incursion last year, but this is the first time such an incident has been reported in Idlib.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, most of whom at the hands of the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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