A US official in Syria on Friday called for “immediate de-escalation” after days of deadly airstrikes and shelling along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying the actions are destabilizing the region and undermining the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey this week launched a wave of airstrikes against suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq, in retaliation for the deadly November 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups.
The groups have denied any involvement in the bombing and say the Turkish strikes killed civilians and threatened the anti-ISIS fight.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said 67 civilians, gunmen and soldiers, have been killed in Turkish attacks in northern Syria since the start of the airstrikes.
Nikolas Granger, who is part of US Central Command – or CENTCOM – and is currently in Syria, said Washington “strongly opposes military action that further destabilizes the lives of communities and families in Syria and we want de-escalation. immediate”.
The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned,” he said, adding that the strikes also put US military personnel at risk.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a new ground invasion of northern Syria targeting Kurdish groups. On Friday, he said Turkey would continue its “fight against all kinds of terrorism inside and outside our borders”.
Both Turkey and the United States consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a terrorist group for the decades-long insurgency and attacks the group has staged inside Turkey’s borders.
But they disagree on the status of the main Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Syrian Kurdish group has been a key US ally in the fight against ISIS.
Turkey has carried out three major incursions into northern Syria since 2016 and its forces still control part of the country.
Kurdish officials in Syria have warned that any further Turkish incursions will disrupt the fight against IS, which still has sleeper cells and has carried out deadly attacks in recent months against Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces as well as Syrian government forces.
“We take these threats seriously and we are preparing to deal with any ground attack,” Siamand Ali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, told The Associated Press.
The Independent Gt