Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday refuted allegations that a Turkish airstrike, launched as part of the country’s offensive against the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, hit a position of US coalition forces in northern Syria.
“It is out of the question whether we harm coalition forces or civilians,” Akar was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anadolu Agency.
“Where the terrorist is, that is our goal. Our most important principle is not to harm civilians or the environment,” he added.
The operation, dubbed Sword-Claw, continues with ground and air support fire against the targets, Akar told reporters, noting that the operation has so far neutralized 326 “terrorists.”
Turkish authorities often use the term “neutralize” to imply that “terrorists” are killed, wounded or captured in security operations.
The US Central Command said Wednesday that a Turkish drone strike on a base in Syria the previous day had put US troops at risk.
“We have received additional information that there was a risk to US troops and personnel,” the US command said in a statement.
No US service members were injured in the attack, it added, without elaborating on the location.
A base near the city of Hasakah in Syria is used by the US-led coalition and the Kurdish-led YPG-affiliated Syrian Democratic Forces to fight Islamic State (IS) militants.
Operation Sword-Claw was launched after a bomb blast in Istanbul, Türkiye’s largest city, on November 13 that killed six people and injured 81 others.
After the attack, Turkish police said they had detained a Syrian woman named Ahlam Albashir who admitted taking orders from the YPG, which Ankara considered to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States and the European Union, has rebelled against the Turkish government for more than three decades. ■