DAMASCUS – Scores of civilians in northern Syria were chemically injured in Turkish-led military operation against Kurdish militias on Wednesday in an incident that could push the conflict between Damascus and Ankara to another level.
Several cases of people suffering from severe burns have arrived in Hasaka Hospital from Ras al-Ain as it is more likely that the injury resulted from being exposed to mysterious chemical substances, official news agency SANA reported.
Local sources claimed that several cases of people with severe burns due to the Turkish shelling on Ras al-Ain city, north of Hasaka, on Wednesday evening arrived in the hospital, indicating that their burns are more likely to be resulted from using unknown chemical substances by Ankara-backed militants.
Earlier, sources close to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared that the Turkish-supported militias used the internationally-banned phosphorus in shelling residential neighborhoods in Ras al-Ain city. Ras al-Ain may be a small border town but it is key in Ankara’s plan to create a ‘safe zone’ along the border east of the Euphrates River.
After meeting with US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that “information emerged that terror groups are intending to use chemical weapons and blame it on Turkish military”.
“Turkish military does not have any chemical weapon in its inventory, everybody knows this,” the defense minister added.
As Turkey’s operation has entered its second week, heavy battles continue on the ground. Heavy fighting erupted in Ras al-Ain, with the SDF mounting fierce defense using tunnels and trenches. The Turkish military aircraft have also launched heavy bombardment on the city and villages in its vicinity.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Turkish forces have extended their control over several towns and villages, including the strategic city of Tel Abyad. SDF managed to regain control of the entire city of Ras al-Ain, as well as the town of Tal Halaf.
On Thursday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced that a total of 673 members of Kurdish militias have been killed since the launch of Ankara’s ongoing military operation in northern Syria. Last Wednesday, Ankara and its allied militants launched a new military campaign in northern Syria dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ that has triggered widespread condemnation.
Meanwhile, the Kurds have struck an agreement with the Syrian government troops to move to the border and block the militants. Previously, the US blocked any attempts to return the territories held by its Kurdish allies to the government in Damascus, as they contained most of Syria’s oil and agricultural resources.