Syrian rebels supported by Turkey have taken control of at least four villages and one town from Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria amid reports that Turkish airstrikes claimed the lives of at least 35 civilians in the area.
Monitors from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say in the attacks Sunday 20 people were killed in the village of Jub-al-Kousa, while 50 people were wounded in an area controlled by militia allied with the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The Observatory says another air strike killed 15 civilians and wounded 20 others near the town of Al-Armana.
The Turkish military said Sunday that its airstrikes in northern Syria killed 25 Kurdish militants and denied that civilians had also been killed. The Turkish military also said it is committed to protecting civilians under international law.
Turkey's state run Anadolu news agency said the dead Kurdish militants were "terrorist members" of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The Turkish military, along with its Syrian rebel allies, is in the fifth day of a campaign designed to drive U.S.-allied Kurdish forces and Islamic State (IS) militants out of the frontier Syrian town of Jarablus, which borders Turkey.
Kurdish militants killed
Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the rally Sunday that residents of Jarablus are returning to their homes after Turkish-backed forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS).
He praised his armed forces for forcing IS militants from Jarabulus. "They were attacking us from across the borders, now they are running away," Erdogan said, vowing to pursue the fleeing terrorists.
Turkey's military foray into Syria is a dramatic escalation of Ankara's involvement in the Syrian civil war.
The clashes bolster Western concerns that Turkey's military incursion into Syria is intended, in part, to target U.S.-supported Kurdish forces known as the Kurdish People's Protection Units, the YPG militia. The U.S. has described the YPG as one of its most effective allies in the fight against so-called Islamic State, while Turkey is demanding a YPG retreat from all border territory seized from IS jihadists.
Barrel bombs target funeral
Elsewhere, the Observatory says Syrian government helicopters dropped two explosive-packed barrel bombs on a funeral Saturday just minutes apart in the Maadi district of eastern Aleppo, killing at least 23 people.
The first bomb landed near a tent where people were mourning the victims of a barrel bomb attack earlier in the week. The second bomb landed as emergency workers arrived.
The attack Thursday in a neighboring district of the once-vibrant city killed 15 people, including 11 children.
The Syrian government routinely denies using barrel bombs. But analysts point out that Damascus and Moscow command the only forces operating helicopters over Aleppo.
Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, has called for a 48-hour truce in Aleppo. He says the world body has in place an emergency response plan to provide humanitarian relief to the besieged city, once a temporary cease-fire is in place.
In a statement, de Mistura said Russia has confirmed it will honor the proposed U.N. emergency response plan and is seeking the cooperation of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's long-standing ally.
The U.N. plan is aimed at providing emergency aid to tens of thousands of people trapped in Aleppo and to restore electricity to the city that was once home to 2.3 million residents.
Elsewhere, Syrian rebels and their families continue evacuating the long-besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya as part of an agreement reached late Thursday with the government after four years of airstrikes and a siege that left the suburb in ruins.
Source: Voice of America