US-backed Kurdish troops are positioning themselves to launch a decisive bid for ISIL’s self-declared capital in Syria.
Turkish forces have retaliated with artillery fire overnight and destroyed Kurdish rebel targets in Syria after YPG fighters opened fire on Turkey-backed rebels in Syria’s north, the military said.
A statement on Wednesday claimed that YPG gunfire on Tuesday evening targeted Free Syrian Army fighters in the Maranaz area south of the town of Azaz in northern Syria.
“Support vehicles in the region were used to retaliate in kind against the harassing fire and the identified targets were destroyed/neutralised,” the military statement said.
The boom of artillery fire could be heard from the nearby Turkish border town of Kilis, broadcaster Haberturk said.
Turkey’s Ihlas news agency had reported earlier that the YPG fighters launched intensive gunfire with heavy machine guns around 9:30pm (18:30 GMT) on Tuesday evening from the Afrin region in north-west Syria.
It was not clear whether there were any casualties in the exchange of fire.
Ankara considers the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey and is also considered a “terrorist group” by the US and the European Union.
The PKK has carried out an armed uprising against the Turkish state since 1984 and more than 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died in the fighting.
Faced with turmoil across its southern border, Turkey last year sent troops into Syria to support Free Syrian Army rebels fighting both ISIL and Kurdish forces, who control a large part of Syria’s northern border region.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey would not flinch from taking tougher action against the YPG in Syria if Turkey believed it needed to.
On Sunday, Erdogan said in a speech that countries that promised to get back weapons supplied to Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria were trying to trick Turkey and would eventually realise their mistake.
“But it will be too late for them,” he added, saying that if violence spilled over Syria’s border into Turkey, Ankara would hold to account anyone who supplied arms to the YPG.
“We will make the real owners of those weapons … pay for any bullet that will be fired to our country, for every drop of blood that will be shed,” he said.