At least four people have been killed by a car bomb in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, according to local media and the news agency Reuters, which cited a medical source in the area saying six others had been wounded.
Videos posted on social media on Monday showed shops destroyed and rubble in the streets near the Kawa Roundabout, where a number of government offices are located.
Earlier on Monday, the Gaziantep governor’s office said three mortar shells fired from across the border fell into the Turkish town of Karkamış, which lies just across the border from Jarablus. One mortar fell near a train station, and another in a park, and no injuries were reported, the provincial governor’s office said in a statement.
Turkey and Turkish-backed rebel groups have staged three large-scale military operations in northern Syria since 2016, taking territory along the border from ISIL (ISIS) as well as the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara says the YPG is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated a “terror” group by Turkey and its NATO allies.
Turkey took control of Afrin after a military incursion alongside allied Syrian fighters in 2018, and thousands of troops are stationed there, but attacks by the YPG have continued.
On Sunday, the Turkish Interior Minister said a missile fired from Tal Rifat, east of Afrin, had struck an armoured car and killed two Turkish special operations police officers and wounded three others. The YPG controls Tal Rifat and Manbij, two pockets adjoining the Turkish-controlled areas.
In June, at least 13 people at a hospital in Afrin were killed by shelling, and Turkey responded with air raids on what it said were YPG positions in Tal Rifat. At least five people were killed in a bombing in Afrin city centre in January which Ankara said the YPG was responsible for.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to continue discussions on a joint security deal in the area that was supposed to see the YPG disarm. Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, is also on opposite sides with Turkey, which has backed Syrian rebel forces, over the fate of nearby rebel-controlled Idlib.
Turkey has looked to Russia to keep the YPG in check in Syria, even as its NATO ally, the United States, has continued to back the Kurdish forces.
Earlier this month US President Joe Biden told Congress he was continuing an emergency authorisation to support the Kurdish forces in Syria, saying the Turkish military presence in the area “undermines the campaign to defeat” ISIL.
On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Mevlut Cavusoglu said Biden was “blaming Turkey” and called on the US to abandon its policy of backing the group in Syria.
Ilham Ahmed, who heads the political arm of the YPG, told Reuters last week that US officials had told him in meetings in Washington that the Biden administration was planning to continue backing the group.
“They said they are going to stay in Syria and will not withdraw – they will keep fighting,” Ahmed said. “Before they were unclear under (former President Donald) Trump and during the Afghan withdrawal, but this time they made everything clear.”