BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkish forces conducting a joint patrol in northern Syria under a Russian-Turkish deal fired live rounds on Tuesday at protesters near the mainly Kurdish town of Kobani, a witness and a monitor said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said two people were killed and seven others injured near the town along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey’s military launched a cross-border offensive into northeast Syria last month to target the Kurdish YPG militia in the region, seizing control of 120 km (75 miles) of land along the frontier.
Under a subsequent deal, Russia and Turkey agreed to push the YPG at least 30 km (19 miles) south of the frontier and to hold joint patrols. Ankara views the YPG as terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency on Turkish soil.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said a fifth joint land patrol with Russia took place in the border region on Tuesday “with due care and diligence for the safety of both civilians and our military personnel despite provocation by terrorists.”
TASS news agency cited Russia’s Defence Ministry as saying Turkish forces and Russian military police conducted the patrol north of Kobani without mentioning a shooting incident.
The witness said forces fired live rounds into the air to disperse residents who were pelting stones at the patrol in an attempt to block it. The forces then fired bullets and tear gas at the protesters, wounding three, he said.
Syrian Kurdish residents have protested during the patrols against the deal under which Turkish troops are entering the border region. The reported shooting on Tuesday appeared to be the first such incident since the patrols started last month.
The Turkish-Russian deal enabled Syrian government forces to move back into border regions held by Kurdish fighters and where the Syrian army had been absent for years.
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which the YPG spearheads, said in a tweet: “Turkish army is firing live bullets on Kurdish protesters and killing them in broad daylight.”
(Reporting by Rodi Said in Syria and Nadine Awadalla in Beirut; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Mark Heinrich)