File picture shows a Turkish Air Force fighter plane in action. Image Credit: AP

Beirut: A Turkish warplane on Saturday bombed a zone in northern Syria held by Kurdish militias, Ankara’s first strike on the country in 17 months, a monitor said.

“A Turkish warplane targeted military positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the village of Saida on the outskirts of Ain Issa,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

This was the first aerial raid since “Operation Peace Spring”, it added - an October 2019 military campaign launched by Ankara and its Syrian allies against the SDF in northern Syria.

That operation, interrupted after two accords negotiated by Ankara with first Washington, and then Moscow, allowed Turkey to seize control of a “safe zone” inside Syria around 120 kilometres long and 32 kilometres deep.

The village of Ain Issa, however, remained in the hands of Kurdish forces.

The air strikes come the same day as “violent clashes” and “intensive rocket fire” on the frontlines of Ain Issa district between SDF forces and Turkish-backed factions, the SOHR said, adding there had been confirmed casualties.

“Clashes between the two sides have been going on for the last 24 hours... Turkish forces have had difficulty advancing since the SDF destroyed a Turkish tank,” the director of the SOHR, Rami Abdul Rahman, told AFP.

The Syrian Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units, which form a vital component of the SDF, are considered by Turkey to be a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

But they have also been a key ally to the United States and others in the battle against Daesh in Syria.