Turkish shelling kills 55 militants in Syria

Turkish artillery fire targeted the Islamic State group in Syria, killing 55 militants and destroying three vehicles and three rocket launchers, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Turkish warplanes also struck positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq yesterday.

The attacks come as Turkey is facing twin threats from the PKK and IS, which have carried out six major suicide attacks in the country since July.

The IS has fired rocket salvos almost daily against the Turkish border town of Kilis, which have killed 21 people and injured 70 others since mid-January, prompting the Turkish military to respond.

Anadolu said the military attacked IS targets north of Aleppo on Saturday.

Syrian warplanes attacked Islamist militants near the northern city of Aleppo yesterday, both sides said, as the government tried to push back a major insurgent advance in the area.

Dozens of air strikes hit near the town of Khan Touman, which rebels took from forces loyal to the government and its ally Iran late on Thursday, insurgents and state media reported.

Aleppo — one of the biggest strategic prizes in a war now in its sixth year — has been divided into government and rebel-held zones through much of the conflict. The surrounding region is also crossed by valuable supply routes into neighbouring Turkey.

Syria’s army said it had hit “terrorist groups” hard yesterday, but did not give details of any territorial gains.

Government forces had made significant advances in the northern region after their other main ally Russia entered the war in September.

But the seizure of Khan Touman on Thursday by an alliance of Islamist insurgents known as Jaish al-Fatah, including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, marked a major counter-attack by forces opposed to president Bashar al-Assad.

The loss of the town south of Apello was a particular blow for Iranian troops who suffered one of their biggest single-day losses in the conflict.

A fighter from the Nusra Front — which is not involved in a shaky ceasefire across Syria — said on social media it was now pushing further south towards the town of al Hader, a major stronghold for Hezbollah and Iranian forces.

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