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Middle East Turkey pushes further into Syria to attack Kurdish militia

TURKISH troops and proxy forces opened new fronts against US-allied Syrian Kurdish militia today as the UN’s security council discussed the situation.

The Kurdish YPG said it was fighting Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army gunmen around the border villages of Balia and Qarna in the north-west of Afrin canton, Aleppo province.

Turkey launched the offensive on Saturday despite Syrian warnings of retaliation. Ankara has claimed the right to establish a 20-mile buffer zone after the US announced that it would form a “border force” including the YPG.

On a flight to Vietnam last night, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said that Turkey had informed the Pentagon before launching the offensive at the weekend “in consultation with us.”

Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the US of “discouraging the Kurds from dialogue” with the Syrian government and “fomenting separatist sentiment” among them, showing a “lack of understanding of the situation or a deliberate provocation.”

The YPG rejected a Syrian offer last week of protection in Afrin in return for restoring government authority there.

In central Idlib province, south of Aleppo, the Syrian army gained its first major foothold, taking the city of Abu al-Duhour and seven nearby settlements from Hetesh extremists.

The army took the neighbouring air base in Aleppo province yesterday, surrounding a huge pocket of Hetesh and Isis fighters to the south-east.

Western-backed insurgents in the East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus shelled the Bab Touma district of the capital, killing nine people including a child and injuring 21. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert backed extremist counterclaims of a chlorine gas attack on the area.

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