Turkey will soon attack the militants with tanks and soldiers, President Tayyip Erdogan has said, signaling a possible ground offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria after retaliatory strikes escalated along the Syrian border.
His comments came as Turkish artillery continued to shell Kurdish bases and other targets near the Syrian towns of Tal Rifaat and Kobani, two Syrian military sources said. Reuters.
“We have been operating against terrorists for a few days with our planes, our guns and our rifles,” Erdogan said in a speech in northeastern Turkey. “God willing, we will eliminate them all as soon as possible, with our tanks, our soldiers.”
He previously said the operations would not be limited to an air campaign and could involve ground forces. Turkey has mounted several major military operations against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Islamic State militants in northern Syria in recent years.
On Tuesday, Turkey said the YPG had killed two people in mortar attacks from northern Syria, following Turkish aerial operations against the militia at the weekend and a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul a week earlier.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said 15 civilians and fighters had been killed in Turkish strikes in recent days.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has vowed to continue operations against the militants, renewing calls for NATO ally Washington to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara calls a wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) banned.
“We tell all our partners, including the United States, at all levels, that the YPG stands up to the PKK and persist in our demand that they cease all forms of support for terrorists,” Akar told a crowd. parliamentary committee in a speech.
A child and a teacher were killed and six people were injured on Tuesday when mortar shells hit a border area in Turkey’s Gaziantep province. Its armed forces responded with jets striking targets in Syria again, a senior security official said.
A spokesman for the US State Department said Washington had raised serious concerns with Ankara about the impact of the escalation on the goal of fighting Islamic State.
“We urged Turkey against such operations, just as we urged our Syrian partners against attacks or escalation,” the spokesperson said in email responses to questions.
A spokesperson for the United States National Security Agency said Reuters on the basis that the US government opposed any military action that would destabilize the situation in Syria.
The United States has allied itself with the YPG-led SDF in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, causing a deep rift with Turkey.
Moscow, which is allied with Damascus, also called on Turkey to exercise restraint in its use of “excessive” military force in Syria and to prevent tension from escalating, Russian news agencies quoted an envoy as saying. Russian in Syria.
During an official visit to Turkey on Tuesday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters that Berlin stood firmly with Ankara in the fight against terrorism, but warned that the reaction must be reasonable.
“We stand with Turkey in the investigation of this terrorist attack and in the fight against terrorism (…) but we also believe that the reaction must be reasonable and in accordance with the rights of the people and not harm civilians. .”
Turkey said its warplanes destroyed 89 targets in Syria and Iraq on Monday, with 184 militants killed in operations targeting the YPG and PKK on Monday and Tuesday.
Ankara said its weekend operation was in retaliation for a bomb attack in Istanbul last week that killed six people and which authorities blamed on militants. No one claimed responsibility and the PKK and SDF denied any involvement.
The bombing evoked memories of violence before the tense 2015 elections and could lead to another security-focused campaign for Erdogan ahead of the tight election next June.
An SDF spokesman said Turkish strikes over the weekend killed 11 civilians, an SDF fighter and two guards.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in fighting between the PKK and the Turkish state that began in 1984. Turkey, the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist group.