The Latest: US Syria outpost vacated after coming under fire

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FILE – In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks to reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon. Esper says the “impulsive” decision by Turkey to invade northern Syria will further destabilize a region already caught up in civil war. Esper says the invasion puts America’s Syrian Kurdish partners “in harm’s way,” but insists the Kurds are not being abandoned. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on U.S. reaction to Turkey’s offensive into Syria (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

U.S. officials say an American outpost in northeastern Syria has been vacated after coming under fire from Turkish artillery.

The officials say a number of U.S. troops left their post on a hill outside the town of Kobane after it came under fire. The officials say a large base in the town has not been affected by the shelling.

Turkey says it didn’t target the U.S. outpost but was responding to fire from Kurdish groups nearby.

The officials say they expect the evacuation to be temporary.

— Sarah El Deeb and Lolita C. Baldor

__

8 p.m.

The Pentagon says U.S. troops in Syria came under artillery fire from the Turks on Friday, in an area where Turkey knows Americans are present.

Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesman, says the artillery explosion came within a few hundred meters of the area where U.S. troops were.

He says no troops were injured and U.S. forces have not withdrawn from Kobani.

Turkey says the U.S. was not the target.

DeWalt warns that Turkey must avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action by the U.S.

This is the first time a coalition base has been in the line of fire since Turkey’s offensive into Syria began Wednesday.

__

1 p.m.

Top Pentagon officials are denying the U.S. is abandoning its Syrian Kurdish allies in the face of a Turkish military offensive, although the future of a counterterrorism partnership with the Kurds is in grave doubt.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says, “We have not abandoned the Kurds.”

He adds that the U.S. “pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.”

Esper’s remarks appear aimed at strengthening the Trump administration’s argument that it did all it could to stop the Turks and, failing that, was left with no reasonable option but to pull some U.S. troops away from the border.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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