Turkish Drones Kill 3 In An Attack On A Local Christian Militia In Northeastern Syria, Officials Say

This is a locator map for Syria with its capital, Damascus. (AP Photo)
This is a locator map for Syria with its capital, Damascus. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT (AP) — Turkish drone strikes in northeastern Syria on Wednesday killed at least three members of a local Christian force and wounded others, including civilians, a Kurdish official and a Syrian opposition war monitor said.

Also on Wednesday, reported Israeli airstrikes hit Damascus, and in the southern Syrian city of Sweida, security forces opened fire at protesters angry over the country’s worsening economy as they tried to break into the offices of President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath Party. A 52-year-old man was shot in the chest and later died of his wounds.

There was no immediate comment from Ankara on Wednesday's airstrikes. Turkey has been attacking Kurdish fighters in Syria for years but attacks on the fighters from the country’s Christian minority have been rare.

The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

Siamand Ali of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press that the Turkish drones initially hit three Suturo vehicles near the northeastern town of Malikiyah. When a fourth vehicle, a pick-up truck, arrived at the scene to retrieve the casualties from the strike, it also came under attack, he said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian.

Turkey often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK — a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s. Turkey says that the main Kurdish militia in Syria, known as People’s Defense Units, or YPG, is an affiliate of the PKK.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency however, reported on Tuesday that the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, had killed a senior Kurdish fighter member in an operation in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli.

The report identified the woman operative as Emine Seyid Ahmed, a Syrian national, who allegedly went by the code name of “Azadi Derik.”

She reportedly joined the Kurdish Women Protection Units, or YPJ, in 2011 and allegedly planned a number of attacks against Turkish security forces as well as cross-border missile attacks targeting civilians in Turkey, Anadolu reported.

In Sweida, the local activist media collective Suwayda24 identified the protester killed during Wednesday's anti-government rally as Jawad al-Barouki.

Suwayda24 chief editor Rayan Maarouf told The Associated Press that the man was rushed to the Sweida National Hospital, but died shortly after at the intensive care unit as the there was no pulmonary doctor at the ICU.

The death marked the first fatality in anti-government protests in Sweida, which erupted last August, with the demonstrators mainly from the country's ethnic Druze minority.

The protests, spurred by surging inflation, quickly turned to calls for the ouster of Assad's government and harked back to the first rallies during the 2011 uprising that later spiraled into Syria's civil war.

Another protester was wounded in Wednesday's shooting, the media collective said.

Israeli airstrikes hit several areas on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday night, Syrian state media reported.

State new agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, reported the strikes were launched from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at around 9:30 p.m. It said that Syrian air defenses had “shot down most of them” and there were only “material losses.”

Residents of Damascus reported hearing loud explosions.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Israeli missiles had targeted sites affiliated with Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on the outskirts of Damascus.

The observatory reported that there were casualties and ambulances had responded to the site. No other details were immediately available.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on Iranian and Iran-allied groups inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years but rarely acknowledges them.


Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.