Assad army warns Turkish aircraft breaching Syrian airspace will be shot down

The Syrian army on Thursday warned Ankara that Turkish aircraft penetrating Syrian airspace would be shot down, the state run SANA news agency reported.

The warning came hours after Turkey said on Thursday that it had killed between 160 and 200 US-backed Kurdish militia fighters in overnight airstrikes north of Aleppo in Syria.

Over 20 strikes targeted the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkey confirmed that jets had struck areas recently captured by the Kurdish YPG militia from ISIS.

The General Command of Syria’s Armed Forces said in a statement that “Erdogan’s government committed a massacre that claimed the lives of more than a hundred and fifty innocent civilians yesterday in villages and towns in the northern countryside of Aleppo.”

“The General Command of the Armed Forces confirms that this aggression targeting innocent citizens is a  dangerous development that could increase the complexity of the situation, and warns that any attempt by Turkish warplanes to repeat this violation of Syrian airspace will be shot down with all means available,” the statement added.

The attack on Kurdish forces was the largest in scale since Turkey first intervened in Syria about two months ago, and followed comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowing an aggressive attitude towards militants.

“From now on we will not wait for problems to come knocking on our door, we will not wait until the blade is against our bone and skin, we will not wait for terrorist organizations to come and attack us,” Erdogan said in a speech.

Other sources disputed the death toll, with the Observatory claiming 11 fighters had been killed and officials of the Kurdish-led administration that rules much of the area reporting that dozens had died.

The SDF and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) groups are actively fighting IS in Syria, a fight in which they are back by the US – support that has made Ankara furious, as it views the YPG as linked to the separatist PKK militants that have for years conducted violent attacks in Turkey.

Ankara is concerned that military successes by the YPG could lead to the creation of a unified, autonomous Kurdish administration in Syria, which would likely motivate Kurds in Turkey to step up their own efforts towards autonomy.