Damascus, Ankara in first border zone clash: monitor

Beirut (AFP) –


Syrian government forces and the Turkish military clashed on Tuesday for the first time since Ankara launched an offensive in northeastern Syria three weeks ago, a war monitor said.

"Heavy fighting erupted for the first time between the Syrian and Turkish armies," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The Britain-based monitoring group said artillery and machinegun fire was exchanged near the village of Assadiya, south of the border town of Ras al-Ain.

At least six Syrian soldiers were wounded in the fighting, the Observatory said.

The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies attacked Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria on October 9 with the aim of creating a roughly 30-kilometre (20-mile) deep buffer zone.

Kurdish forces agreed to withdraw from a 120-kilometre (75 mile) long, Arab-majority segment of the 440-kilometre (275-mile) border zone, although clashes have been reported since.

Turkey subsequently reached a deal with the Syrian government's main backer Russia for Kurdish forces to pull back from the entire border area.

Left in the lurch by a US troop withdrawal from the border area, Kurdish forces turned to the government for protection.

Government forces are now expected to deploy along much of the border zone but a 10-kilometre-deep strip is to be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops, starting from Tuesday.