At least 23 people were killed today in the northeast Syria when Turkish-backed fighters attempted to infiltrate the area and clashed with the regular Syrian army, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

From the battles, in Hasake province, 18 members of pro-Turkish organizations and five Syrian soldiers were killed, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Observatory, which is based in Britain but has a wide network of sources in Syria.

According to this source, the incident took place in the Kurdish-controlled Tal Tamr region of northwestern Hasakeh. Ankara-backed rebel units calling themselves the Syrian National Army tried to infiltrate the area earlier today. The Syrian army and fighters affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (an Arab-Kurdish coalition dominated by Syrian Kurds) tried to push them back and clashed with them.

The area of ​​Tal Tamr is in the border zone controlled by Ankara. Since 2016, Turkey has launched several operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, gaining control of areas along the border between the two countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he wants to establish a thirty-kilometer-wide “security zone” along the entire border. In a 2019 deal brokered by Russia, Syrian government forces were deployed to border areas and in return Turkey halted its military operation.