A base in northeastern Syria used jointly by Kurdish forces and the US-led coalition was hit in a Turkish drone strike on Tuesday, according to a Syrian Kurdish group and independent monitoring agency. The strike came as the US and Russia urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call off a planned ground invasion into northern Syria.
“A joint base north of Hasakeh used for planning and executing joint operations against the Islamic State group has been hit by a Turkish drone,” a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Farhad Shami, told AFP, adding that two SDF fighters had been killed.
A British-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed the joint base had come under attack but was not immediately in a position to say whether coalition forces had been present at the time.
Turkey launched a series of air strikes under “Operation Claw-Sword” on Sunday – hitting dozens of Kurdish militant targets across Iraq and Syria.
Tuesday’s strike in Hasakeh came hours before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would “soon” launch a ground operation in Syria against Kurdish militants.
“We have been on top of terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and drones,” Erdogan said in a televised address on Tuesday. “God willing, we will root out all of them soon with our tanks, artillery and soldiers.”
Erdogan’s address came despite US and Russian warnings against a ground offensive in Syria.
US, Russian calls for de-escalation
Russia on Tuesday called for Turkey to exercise “restraint” and warned against “destabilising” Syria.
“We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns regarding its own security. We believe this is the legal right of Turkey,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“We still call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to seriously destabilising the situation,” he said.
He added that it could “boomerang back and further complicate the security situation”.
The US on Monday also called for a de-escalation
“We urge de-escalation in Syria to protect civilian life and support the common goal of defeating ISIS,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement, referring to the fight against the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group.
Violence rises after Istanbul attack
Turkey’s latest escalation of its longstanding conflict against Kurdish militants follows a November 13 attack in Istanbul that killed six people and wounded 81. Ankara blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terror group by the EU and the US.
The PKK – which was involved in peace talks with the Turkish state before Erdogan scrapped negotiations in 2016 – has denied involvement in the November 13 Istanbul attack.
Erdogan has threatened a new military operation into northern Syria since May and upped those threats in the wake of this month’s bomb attack.
Turkey has launched three offensives into Syria since 2016 aimed at crushing Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom it charges are allied to the PKK.
Erdogan has repeatedly called for a 30-kilometre (19-mile) “safe zone” to protect southern Turkey against cross-border attacks from Syrian territory.
At least three people, including a child, were killed in a Turkish border town on Monday by a rocket strike fired from Syria.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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