Turkish drone hits Syrian Kurdish base used by US-led coalition, Kurds say

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 attack came as the US and Russia called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call off a planned ground invasion in northern Syria.

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“A joint base north of Hasakeh used to plan and carry out 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 that the joint base had been attacked but was not immediately in a position to say whether coalition forces had been present at the time.

Turkey launched a series of airstrikes 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, guns and drones,” Erdogan said in a televised speech on Tuesday. “God willing, we will soon exterminate them all with our tanks, artillery and soldiers.”

Erdogan’s speech came despite US and Russian warnings against a ground offensive in Syria.

The US and Russia demand de-escalation

Russia on Tuesday urged Turkey to exercise “restraint” and warned against “destabilizing” Syria.

“We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns regarding its own security. We believe this is Turkey’s legal right,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“We still call on all parties to refrain from actions that could lead to serious destabilization of the situation,” he said.

He added that it could “backfire and further complicate the security situation”.

The US also called for a de-escalation on Monday

“We are calling for deescalation in Syria to protect civilian life and support the shared goal of defeating ISIS,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, referring to the fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group ).

Violence increases after the attack in Istanbul

Turkey’s latest escalation in its long-running conflict with Kurdish militants follows an attack in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and injured 81. Ankara blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the EU and the US.

The PKK – which was involved in peace talks with the Turkish state before Erdogan scrapped the talks in 2016 – has denied involvement in the November 13 Istanbul attack.

Erdogan has been threatening a new military operation in northern Syria since May, increasing those threats in the wake of this month’s bombing.

Turkey has launched three offensives in Syria since 2016 aimed at crushing Syrian Kurdish fighters it accuses of being allied with the PKK.

Erdogan has repeatedly called for a 30-kilometer “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 attack from Syria.

(Axadle with AFP)

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