Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is again threatening to imminently launch a major ground operation in northern Syria to root out Kurdish "terrorist" groups, following the November 13 bombing in central Istanbul which killed six people. The Turkish government quickly blamed the outlawed PKK and affiliate groups operating across the border in Syria.
The weekend saw Turkish warplanes conduct dozens of 'retaliatory' strikes across Kurdish regions of northern Syria and Iraq. Ankara declared that 89 targets with alleged links to the PKK and Syrian YPG were destroyed.
Both Kurdish groups rejected the allegation that the Istanbul terror attack, which additionally wounded over 80 people, was carried out by the PKK or YPG.
"We have been bearing down on terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and guns," Erdogan said in a Tuesday speech. "God willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible, together with our tanks, our soldiers."
Russia has meanwhile warned against a new Turkish incursion into Syria. "We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns about ensuring its own security. We believe this is Turkey’s legitimate right," a fresh statement from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "At the same time, we call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to the destabilization of the overall situation," he added.
The United States has also called for a de-escalation of the situation. The Pentagon still has hundreds of special forces embedded with Syrian Kurdish militias (the SDF) throughout northeast Syria.
Turkey has dubbed its stepped up cross-border operations as 'Claw Sword' - as announced the deaths of 184 Kurdish militants.
As for the Istanbul terror bombing, Kurdish officials have said Erdogan is playing politics and seeking to manipulate and distract the domestic public:
The Kurdistan Workers Party denied involvement in a statement, saying it did not target civilians. In Syria, the main Kurdish militia group, People’s Defense Units denied any links to the suspect. The group maintained that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was trying to gather international support for his plans to launch a new incursion into northern Syria ahead of next year’s elections.
The initial White House statement issued in the wake of the Istanbul bombing denounced the "act of violence" while saying, "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO ally (Turkey) in countering terrorism."
However, Washington has consistently urged against large-scale Turkish military incursions into Syria, warning further that American troops must not be put in harm's way.