ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish teenager was killed and two other people were wounded near Syria’s border by stray bullets fired during renewed clashes between Syrian rebels and Kurdish gunmen, an official said Wednesday. Turkey’s military said it fired into Syria in retaliation for bullets that struck Turkish territory.
Syrian rebels and pro-government fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party have resumed battles in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish gunmen had captured most of the town after a day of fighting against the rebel jihadi groups.
The Observatory said the fighting in Ras al-Ayn between Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and members of al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant left at least 11 dead people dead, including nine extremists.
The clashes between rebel factions who had fought together against forces of President Bashar Assad have been frequent in the past weeks. Fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and those from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant clashed last week in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
The growing phenomenon of rebel-on-rebel violence has sapped strength from the broader opposition movement to Syrian President Bashar Assad, underscoring the rebels’ inability to unite around a common command and for Assad’s deeply divided political opponents in the Western-backed opposition group to unify their platforms.
A Turkish official said the 17-year-old boy was killed in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar by a stray bullet on Tuesday while another teenager was in a hospital in serious condition. The official from the Ceylanpinar mayor’s office spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The Turkish military said in a brief statement that it fired into Syria in retaliation to shots fired into Turkey, including several that hit a police station in Ceylanpinar. It gave no further detail on the attack but the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said the military fired artillery at an area in Ras al-Ayn. The official in Ceylanpinar said the military targeted PYD gunmen but had no information on any casualties or damage.
Turkey was once a close Syrian ally, but turned into one of Syrian President Bashar Assad regime’s harshest critics and is a key supporter Syrian rebels. Turkey has repeatedly struck back at the Syrian territory in response to shelling, mortar rounds or fire from across the border since shells from Syria struck a Turkish village in October, killing five people.
The Observatory said members of jihadi groups had to withdraw from Ras al-ayn to nearby villages. It said Kurdish gunmen captured a number of fighters in the area.
The fighting broke out Tuesday after the Islamic fighters attacked a Kurdish patrol in the area, capturing a Kurdish gunman. Wider clashes erupted later in the day after the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant rejected a truce offer, according to the Observatory.
More than a dozen Ceylanpinar residents have been wounded from stray fire as the groups have battled for control of Ras al-Ayn since November.
Officials in Ceylanpinar were on Wednesday urging people to keep away from the Syrian border, to stay indoors and to avoid balconies or windows.
Also on Wednesday, angry residents protested the teenager’s death outside of the hospital where at least eight Syrians wounded in the fighting were being treated, the official said.