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Turkey-backed and Kurdish-led forces clash in northern Syria

Posted November 23

— Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces clashed with Kurdish-led forces on Wednesday in northern Syria, where both are fighting the Islamic State group.

The press office for the Kurdish-held parts of Syria said eight civilians were killed in shelling by Turkish-backed forces in the countryside between Manbij, a town controlled by Kurdish-affiliated forces, and the IS-held town of al-Bab. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two civilians were killed in the clashes, which were still underway.

The Turkey-backed forces have converged on al-Bab in recent days. On Wednesday, the Kurdish-affiliated forces entered the IS-held town of Arima, near al-Bab. Turkey has called on the Kurds to leave Manbij and withdraw to the east.

Turkish warplanes meanwhile targeted IS in northern Syria, Turkey's state-run Anadolu News Agency said. Quoting unnamed military officials, it said the raids destroyed two buildings, an ammunition depot and four defensive positions around al-Bab.

In Cairo, meanwhile, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi expressed support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's military, in remarks that are likely to anger Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which back Syria's armed rebellion.

Egypt angered Saudi Arabia, its top financial backer, last month when it backed a draft resolution on Syria at the U.N. Security Council that was opposed by Riyadh. The kingdom has since suspended fuel shipments to Egypt.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned deliberate attacks on hospitals in Syria, and said it's "very regrettable" that Russia is supporting Assad.

"There are too many indications that hospitals and medical facilities are deliberately being bombed," she said in a speech to the German parliament, adding that it "has to be pursued under criminal law."

Assad's government has also received crucial support from Iran, where an official was quoted as saying that more than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in combat in Syria.

The figure was provided by Mohammed al-Shahidi, the head of a foundation that provides aid to the families of those killed in action, in an interview with the semi-official Tasnim news agency. He did not elaborate.

In August, the same official was quoted as saying that at least 400 members of Iranian brigades have been killed in Syria, half of them Afghan. Iran hosts a large population of Afghan Shiites, who have fought alongside Assad's forces.

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