Turkish-Backed Rebels Intensify Attacks on Syrian Town  

A town in northern Syria has increasingly been under attack from rebel groups backed by Turkey amid fears of a new Turkish offensive into the region.   On Sunday, Syrian rebel fighters supported by the Turkish military carried out artillery attacks on the town of Ain Issa and several nearby villages, local news media reported.    Ain Issa is currently controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a major U.S. partner in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terror group. The town is located on the strategic M4 Highway that connects northeast Syria to the western part of the war-torn country.     “In the past two weeks, these attacks on Ain Issa have increased significantly,” said Hosheng Hesen, a reporter with the Syria-based North Press Agency.   “In addition to the town, a camp for internally displaced people has also been targeted several times by the armed groups,” he told VOA.   According to North Press Agency, the ongoing shelling has left at least nine civilians wounded, including two children.   Turkey views the SDF as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington.   In October 2019, Turkey launched a major offensive against SDF fighters in Syria, dislodging them from Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, two towns located north and east of Ain Issa respectively.   With a continued Turkish military buildup near the Syrian border, observers say Turkish forces could begin a new large-scale operation to capture Ain Issa and its surrounding areas from Kurdish forces. “At this point, everything is possible,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.   The Syrian Observatory reported that the area has been witnessing “almost daily bombardment” in recent weeks.   In October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on several occasions talked about the possibility of a new Turkish offensive into northeast Syria.     

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