A base in northeastern Syria used jointly by Kurdish forces and the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS was hit in a Turkish drone strike on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing local Kurds and a human rights group in London.
“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 (SDF), Farhad Shami, told AFP, adding that two SDF fighters had been killed.
A British-based human rights defender, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed that two SDF fighters had been killed in the strike but was not immediately in a position to say whether coalition forces had been present at the time.
There was no immediate comment from the US-led coalition.
Since it launched a new air campaign against Kurdish rebel targets across Iraq and Syria on Sunday, Ankara has come under pressure from Washington to hold off on a long-threatened ground operation into Syria.
“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 late Monday, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has voiced growing defiance in the face of the US warnings, promising on Tuesday that the air campaign will be followed by a ground offensive “soon.”
“We have been on top of terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and drones,” Erdoğan said in a televised address. “We will soon root out all of them with our tanks, artillery and soldiers, God willing.”
Called Operation Claw-Sword, the air raids followed a bombing in Istanbul that killed six people and wounded 81.
Ankara blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but the group, which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, has denied that it was responsible.
In Syria, the principal target of the Turkish campaign is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who dominate the SDF.
Washington forged a close alliance with the SDF during their successful campaign to oust ISIL from Syrian territory.
But Ankara regards it as a terrorist group linked to the PKK.
In a veiled reference to Washington on Tuesday, Erdoğan said his government knew “who protects, arms and encourages those terrorists.”
“The road has come to an end for those who think they can keep Turkey waiting by playing with letters and changing the name of the terrorist organization,” he added.