ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s military shelled Kurdish militia targets in northern Syria on Saturday, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu demanded that the group, known as the YPG, withdraw from the area, further complicating the conflict across the NATO member’s border.
Meanwhile, Syrian government forces captured another village near Aleppo on Saturday, tightening the noose around rebel-held parts of the northern city, Syrian state television and an opposition activist group said.
The shelling by Turkish forces took place after fighters with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, backed by Russian bombing raids, drove Syrian rebels from a former military air base south of the town of Azaz, near the Syria-Turkey border.
A Kurdish official confirmed the shelling of the base but said that Menagh had been captured by the Kurdish-allied Jaysh al-Thuwar group rather than the YPG. Both are part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance.
The shelling came amid growing anger in Ankara with the United States for supporting the YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization, in its fight against Islamic State militants.
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which backs the YPG, controls most of the Syrian side of Turkey’s border, and Ankara views it as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which for three decades has waged an insurgency for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby urged both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds to step back, saying they should focus instead on tackling the “common threat” of Islamic State militants who control large parts of Syria.
Turkey’s disquiet has been heightened by the tens of thousands of people fleeing to the Turkish border following attacks by Russian-backed Syrian government forces, swelling the number of displaced in the area to 100,000.
Turkey, which already hosts 2.6 million Syrian refugees, has tried to keep the latest arrivals on the Syrian side of the border.
On Saturday, Syrian state TV and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said state troops captured the village of Tamoura near Aleppo amid intense shelling and air raids by Russian warplanes.
Syrian troops have been advancing under cover of Russian airstrikes with the aim of besieging the rebel-held parts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. If they are able to do so, it would be the biggest defeat for the rebels since the conflict began four years ago.
After capturing Tamoura, troops would still have to take several more villages and towns — including Hayan, Anadan, Hreitan and Kafr Hamra — in order to completely encircle the Aleppo rebels.
Hezbollah-run al-Manar TV said troops are now overlooking Hayan and parts of Anadan. The Lebanese militant group is fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Al-Manar later aired live footage from an area overlooking Anadan in which Syrian troops were heavily pounding the area with artillery shells, and white smoke could be seen billowing from several spots. Al-Manar has a reporter embedded with Syrian troops in Aleppo province.
To the north, warplanes carried out more than 20 air raids on the town of Tal Rifaat, a stronghold of the powerful ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activist Amer Hassan, who is currently in nearby Azaz. Tal Rifaat is about nine miles from the Turkish border.