BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkish forces shelled a primary school and a water plant in Syria’s northern Afrin region, Syrian Kurdish fighters and Syrian state media said on Wednesday. A Turkish military source denied the allegations.
Ankara launched an air and ground assault last month against the Kurdish YPG militia in the Afrin region along its border, opening a new front in Syria’s multi-sided, almost seven-year-old war.
YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said Turkey’s army and its Syrian insurgent allies hit the main water plant that supplies Afrin city. Technicians, he said, were trying to repair destruction at the treatment and pumping facility after the artillery knocked it out of service.
Mahmoud said shells also struck a primary school in the Maydanki village a day earlier but caused no casualties.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said the bombardment wrecked parts of the school.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group, said Turkish troops caused damages at the plant, 9 km (5.6 miles) northeast of Afrin city.
The facility supplies drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents and displaced people in the wider Afrin region, the Observatory said.
Asked about the reports, the Turkish military source said: “The Turkish armed forces are not aiming at these kinds of targets.”
Since the onset of Syria’s conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin.
Their territory has expanded since they joined forces with the United States to fight Islamic State militants – although Washington opposes their autonomy plans, as does Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
U.S. support for the Kurdish-led forces has infuriated Turkey, which views growing Kurdish power as a security threat along its frontier. Ankara regards the YPG as terrorists and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; editing by Mark Heinrich)