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Heavy fighting reported between Syrian and Turkish troops

A Turkish army vehicle is driven on the outskirts of the village of Alakamis, in Idil province, southeastern Turkey, after conducting a joint patrol with Russian forces in Syria on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019.

MEHMET GUZEL/AP

By ALBERT AJI AND SUZAN FRASER | Associated Press | Published: November 9, 2019

DAMASCUS, Syria — Intense clashes broke out Saturday between Syrian government troops and Turkish-led forces in northeastern Syria, the country’s state media and an opposition war monitor reported.

Several people were injured, including a cameraman for state-run Syrian TV, according to both SANA and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory and Kurdish news agency Hawar said a Syrian major general and a colonel were also wounded.

Turkey invaded northeastern Syria last month to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters near the border. The Kurdish groups called in Syrian government forces to halt Turkey’s advance. Syrian government forces have clashed since with Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters despite a shaky truce brokered by Russia.

SANA said the clashes Saturday involved heavy machine-gun fire and occurred in the village of Um Shaifa near the town of Ras al-Ayn, which was captured by Turkish-led forces troops last month.

The Observatory said government forces withdrew from several areas, including Um Shaifa, leaving Kurdish fighters alone to face the attacks, which also involved Turkish drones.

Syrian state TV said one of its cameramen was wounded in the fighting, while the Observatory said several were wounded, including a paramedic.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Saturday it had recorded eight violations or attacks carried out by Syrian Kurdish fighters in the previous 24 hours despite separate cease-fire agreements that Turkey has reached with Russia and the U.S. The ministry said on its Twitter account that the Syrian Kurdish fighters attacked with mortars, rockets and sniper fire, without saying where the attacks had occurred.

The ministry gave no mention of fighting with Syrian government troops.

Last week, Turkish forces captured 18 Syrian government soldiers in the area and set them free hours later following mediation by Russia.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized a U.S. decision to send U.S. troops to protect oil fields in eastern Syria, saying no one but Syria has rights over the country’s reserves.

The U.S. has said the move is aimed at preventing the oil fields from falling into the hands of Islamic State militants. Turkey is concerned that U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters will benefit from the oil revenues. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish militants fighting inside Turkey.

“To come from tens of thousands of miles away and to say, ‘We will put the country’s wealth, oil reserves to use,’ is against international law. And we oppose it. “ Cavusoglu said at the end of a regional economic cooperation meeting. “These (reserves) belong to the Syrian people and should be used in a way that benefits the people of Syria.”

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

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