ISTANBUL - Turkey on Thursday told France to stop lecturing it over its campaign in Syria, where Ankara is pressing a fierce offensive against a Kurdish militia.

The warning from Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron told Ankara it would be a "real problem" if its intervention turned into an outright "invasion".

"France cannot give us lessons on this issue," Cavusoglu told reporters in televised comments.

"We are not France, which occupied Africa," he said referring to France's colonial past.

Turkey launched an offensive on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and last week President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expand the operation, hiking tensions with its NATO allies.  Turkey says the YPG is a terror organisation allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). But Washington has backed the YPG as a key secular ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Cavusoglu said European leaders had initially expressed support for Turkey's campaign in Syria during talks with Ankara, but that they appeared to have changed their stance in public comments.

"Unfortunately Europeans are two-faced," he remarked. Reacting to Macron's remarks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that any suggestion that Ankara had broader designs in Syria, beyond pushing the YPG back from the border, was "totally wrong".

"The whole world knows, or should know, that Turkey is not engaged in an invasion," he said on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Macron had also angered Ankara by pledging to observe a "Day of Remembrance of the (Armenian) genocide" in talks with Armenian groups in France.

Many historians and Western nations consider the World War I-era mass killings and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire a genocide - a term forcefully rejected by Turkey.

Three Turkish soldiers killed in

PKK attacks in Iraq, Turkey

Three Turkish soldiers were killed on Thursday in two separate attacks by Kurdish militants in northern Iraq and in southeastern Turkey, the military said.

Two other soldiers were wounded after the attack by the "separatist terrorist organisation" - Turkey's official term for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, the army said in a statement.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

Meanwhile, in an earlier attack, one soldier was killed and five were wounded after an attack near a military base in the Cukurca district of Hakkari province.

Earlier Turkish media reported two Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack in Hakkari's Semdinli district - which appeared to be a separate incident - blamed on the PKK launching a missile from northern Iraq. But the army did not refer to this attack in its statements. The deaths come a day after the army said one Turkish soldier was killed in an attack in the eastern province of Agri.

Strikes kill 20 civilians in north

At least 20 civilians were killed Thursday in Syrian government air strikes on rebel-held territory in the country's north, a war monitor said.

Elsewhere three children were reported killed in artillery strikes on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, while state news agency SANA said seven people died in apparent retaliatory shelling of nearby government-held Damascus.

The aerial bombardments in the north pounded several areas in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, where government troops are waging a Russian-backed assault against rebels and jihadists.

"Regime raids hit two villages in the south of Aleppo province, killing 15 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In the neighbouring province of Idlib, government air strikes killed five civilians in the town of Saraqeb, said the Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor.

That broad region is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is dominated by Al-Qaeda's one-time affiliate in Syria.

Syrian government troops launched a ferocious offensive in late December to retake parts of Idlib and secure a key road leading from Aleppo south to the capital.

Regime forces have made key gains, recapturing the Abu Duhur military airport and dozens of nearby villages.

Since it erupted in 2011, Syria's conflict has morphed from a protest movement into a brutal and complex war that has left 340,000 people dead.

In an attempt to bring an end to the fighting, backers of opposing sides last year agreed to four "de-escalation" zones in the country.

Idlib makes up part of one zone. The other three are in Syria's south, the central province of Homs, and the area of Eastern Ghouta, an opposition enclave near Damascus.

The area has been besieged by government troops since 2013 and is home to around 400,000 people living a humanitarian nightmare.

US not ruling out military strikes after new chemical attacks

The United States is not ruling out fresh military action against the Syrian regime as Washington dials up pressure in a bid to stop sustained chemical weapons attacks, senior administration officials said Thursday.

In the wake of suspected sarin and chlorine attacks - including one unconfirmed attack in the rebel-held town of Douma on Thursday - Washington said it wants to send a message to Bashar al-Assad's regime and its Russian backers that enough is enough.

"The Assad regime and ISIS continue to use chemical weapons," one senior official said. "They just continue to commit really unspeakable atrocities."

A second official told AFP that military options against Damascus similar to those launched in April 2017 were always on the table and "always feasible."

"He hasn't excluded anything," the official said of President Donald Trump, "using military force is something that is still considered."