Turkey denies harming US forces and civilians in Northern Syria
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey’s harming the coalition forces and civilians in Syria is out of question.
“Turkish forces only target terrorists and their hideouts during the operation,” Akar said, denying Washington’s accusations that Turkey’s aerial attacks into Northern Syria were endangering the safety of the US troops.
"Our most important principle is not to harm civilians and the environment," Akar told reporters following a Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting in Ankara on early Friday, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Tuesday said Turkey conducted a drone attack onto a base of the US-led International Coalition at Al-Hasakah, which also houses counter-terrorism units of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi said the building hit by a Turkish drone was 500 meters away from the base of the US troops.
Following the attack, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said the recent airstrikes “directly threatened the safety of US personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain custody of more than ten thousand ISIS detainees.”
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Wednesday also said that the American troops were put at risk by a Turkish drone strike.
SDF is a US-backed armed group, dominated by the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG), allying with the West in fight against the Islamic State in Syria. According to Reuters, the United States has around 900 troops in Syria, mainly working with the SDF in the northeast of the country.
However Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting an insurgency in Turkish soil for Kurdish autonomous rights for almost four decades and since 2016, conducted three large-scale military operations into the region to combat YPG militia.
Blaming a recent bomb attack in Istanbul on PKK and YPG, that the two groups deny involvement, Ankara at the weekend has launched an aerial military campaign into Northern Syria and Northern Iraq.
Turkey has eliminated 326 “terrorists” during its cross-border operation named “Claw-Sword” so far, according to Defense Minister Akar.
The PKK maintains its headquarters in Northern Iraq.