Joint Turkey-US patrols begin in Syria's Manbij: state media

Joint Turkey-US patrols begin in Syria's Manbij: state media

Turkish and United States soldiers have begun joint patrols around the city of Manbij in northern Syria aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington's Kurdish allies, even as Ankara presses on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds.

Since June 18, the Turkish Armed Forces have carried out 68 individual patrols in Manbij.

Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in August 2016 and ended in March 2017, aimed to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab, and Azaz with the use of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.

The SDF has been on crushing offensive against IS in the eastern Euphrates since September 10, but the terror-designated group succeeded in a counter-offensive recently to recapture all fallen areas from the SDF.

The US has been in touch with Turkey and a Kurdish-dominated Syrian militia to emphasise the need "to de-escalate the situation", he said.

On Wednesday, the SDF said the Turkish attacks had forced it to suspend its US -backed campaign against Islamic State near the Iraqi border.

The US military estimates around 2,000 IS fighters are holed up in and around Hajin along the Euphrates River valley in Deir el-Zor province near the border with Iraq.

The United States-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) on Thursday confirmed the start of joint Turkish-American patrols near Manbij.

A Kurdish-led force backed by a US-led coalition on Wednesday suspended operations against the Islamic State group and said they would not resume until Turkey halts its attacks on Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.

Turkey on Wednesday killed at least four Syrian Kurds, including at least two fighters, and wounded six others when it shelled the villages of Selim and Kor Ali west of Kobani, according to the Kurdish-run Hawar news agency.

"We also call the global community to condemn the Turkish provocations in the safe areas in Syria, and we demand our partners in the worldwide Coalition to show a clear attitude and stop Turkey from launching attacks on the region", it added.

The city is controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers a terrorist group. At the time, the SDF said it sent its fighters to defend the enclave, and accused Turkey of jeopardizing the anti-ISIS campaign. This assault has already forced Kurdish forces to retreat across the Euphrates river.

The SDF said Wednesday that it fired back in self-defense, and "as a result, a Turkish military vehicle was destroyed".

The Americans and the Turks have been conducting independent patrols along the border, and joint patrols are seen as a way of preventing violence. Turkey, however, still wants Kurdish forces in Manbij to withdraw from the town.

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