Syrian-state media said that Turkish forces began an assault on the northeastern area of the country. The U.S. denied the report.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The U.S. said a Syrian state media report of a Turkish airstrike in northern Syria were untrue. “As of now” there is no Turkish operation in Syria, an unnamed U.S. official said, according to Reuters.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, an independent, London-based organization, also denied that Turkey had struck in Syria. However, it did report that a Turkish airstrike took place against positions in Iraq and that “2 shells coming from the Turkish side, fell inside the Syrian territory within a deserted and unpopulated area.”
Israeli media also reported that a Kurdish base inside western Iraq was targeted.
MK Naftali Bennett tweeted on Monday night in response to the attack, “At this time we, Israelis, pray for the Kurd People who are under a brutal Turkish attack. The lesson for Israel is simple: Israel will ALWAYS defend itself by itself. The Jewish State will never put its fate in the hands of others, including our great friend, the USA.”
Bennett’s remarks reflect Israeli concerns over President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday to move U.S. forces out of Syria following a conversation he had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The U.S. decision abandons its Kurdish allies who fought against ISIS. Turkey views the Kurds as a threat and it is feared will crush them once U.S. protection is withdrawn.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Sunday night.
“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” the statement continued.
The president’s decision is viewed unfavorably by the Pentagon, according to reports. In December, when Trump first made his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in protest.
Many in Trump’s own party also oppose the move, saying they are concerned about the message it sends to U.S. allies around the world.
The president defended his decision. However, he also warned, “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off-limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)”
The Pentagon also tried to discourage Turkey from taking advantage of Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces.
Pentagon spokesperson Carla Gleason told reporters on Monday that the Combined Air Operations Center has removed Turkey from the anti-ISIS “air tasking order,” which coordinates military flights in northeastern Syria, and stopped Ankara’s access to surveillance information.
This is considered an effective way to curtail Turkey’s ability to carry out future airstrikes in the region.
On the political front, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted on Monday: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”