12 killed, dozens injured in bomb attack in Turkish controlled Syrian town

At least 12 civilians and dozens more were injured in a bomb blast on Sunday in Syria’s Cobanbey town in Aleppo province near the Turkey-Syria border, the White Helmets, a civil defense group, reported on Sunday.

A truck packed with explosives was detonated in a parking lot next to Cobanbey Hospital, damaging the hospital and several nearby houses.

Osama Abu al-Kheir, a member of the opposition security forces, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency that a refrigeration truck had blown up outside the hospital.

Alaa al-Hammad, the deputy head of the town council, said the truck appeared to have been detonated by remote control.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The White Helmets defense group carried out search and rescue operations in the debris of the explosion area, located about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Turkish border.

In June, another vehicle, laden with explosives, was detonated killing 19 people in a nearby town of Azaz.

Cobanbey has been controlled by the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces since early 2017.

A civil war broke out in 2011 in Syria between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and anti-government rebels.

Moscow and Tehran support the al-Assad regime, while Ankara has been backing the rebels, notably the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which controls a region that is home to some 3 million residents, including most of Idlib and parts of Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia.

In 2016, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the FSA launched Operation Euphrates Shield in a bid to clear the area of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara deems both as terrorist organizations.

In contrast, the United States (US) sees the YPG as an important ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Last year in Operation Olive Branch, the TSK and the FSA also cleared the northwestern enclave of Afrin to the west of Cobanbey of the YPG and the ISIS.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have recently headed towards the Turkish border as the Russia-backed Syrian forces advanced into Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts for their latest summit on Syria, with attention focused on Syria’s push on Idlib.

The White Helmets, a volunteer organization officially known as the Syria Civil Defence (SCD), work across the rebel-controlled Syria and in Turkey. Formed in 2014 during the Syrian civil war, the SCD’s activities consist of medical evacuation, urban search, and rescue in response to the bombings, evacuation of civilians from danger areas, and essential service delivery.

Media associated with the al-Assad regime and Russia have accused the defense group of links with rebel groups, while the SCD leaders say all their staff are civilians, and the SCD’s code of conduct forbids taking up arms.

The group was also banned from entering Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria.

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