At least 17 people were killed and more than 20 others were injured in a car-bomb blast in Turkish controlled northern Syria, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence said late Tuesday.
Announcing the blast on its official Twitter account, the Ministry said the car exploded in the village of Tal Halaf, west of Ras al-Ayn province, which was previously under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which consists predominantly of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara accused the YPG of the attack, saying it “shows a much worse attitude than DAESH”, Arabic acronym of the ISIS.
“The PKK/YPG terror organization continues its bomb-laden car attacks aimed at innocent civilians in the east of the Euphrates River. The child murderers this time detonated a car bomb in Tal Halaf village, west of Ras al-Ayn, killing 17 people and wounding more than 20,” the ministry’s tweet read.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor that reports on the war using a network of sources on the ground, reported a lower toll of 11 dead, including three civilians
The monitor added that the death toll is likely to increase due to the severity of the injuries sustained by some.
On Saturday, another car bomb had killed at least 10 people and wounded more 25 in Syria’s border town of Tel Abyad, which witnessed the heaviest fighting during the Turkish operation in northeastern Syria and was seized by Turkish-backed forces.
At the time, Turkey’s ministry had also accused the YPG of the attack, while the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic group with a central command structure formed by the YPG, hold “Turkish-backed mercenaries” responsible for the blast.
Late on Tuesday, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) announced that the incursion, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”, into northeast Syria would continue until it reaches its goals by taking all precautions to prevent harm to civilians.
“We call on the international community to support Turkey, which aims for the safe and voluntary return of Syrians to their country without any discrimination based on ethnicity or religion,” the MGK said.
Turkey says that the YPG has not yet withdrawn from some regions in defiance of the two deals struck with Russia and the US. It claims the Kurdish-led forces have still carried out attacks both on its soldiers and civilians.
Chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the council also said the country would continue its fight against the ISIS and was ready for any cooperation in that regard.
However, the SDF claimed that it was Turkey that was violating the ceasefire agreement.
On Sunday, it reported that “Turkish forces launched attacks with tanks, artillery and a large number of mercenaries on several axes to invade Ain Issa. The cease-fire agreement is once again being violated by the Turkish army.”
Turkish forces launched attacks with tanks, artillery and a large number of mercenaries on several axis to invade Ain Issa since the morning. The cease-fire agreement is once again being violated by Turkish army. pic.twitter.com/HwZVNpTPGJ
— Syrian Democratic Forces (@SDF_Syria) November 23, 2019
The US-backed Kurdish militia, which bore the brunt of the fighting against ISIS was attacked on October 9 by Turkey, which proceeded to invade northeastern Syria.
Firstly, the U.S. on October 17 and then Russia on October 22 reached a deal with Turkey to halt its incursion into the region where it plans to set up a “safe zone” to send there up to 2 million, out of 3.6 million, Syrian refugees living in the country back.
Turkey says plans to clear the area off the YPG, seeing it as the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s.