ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Saturday that Turkish-backed armed groups shelled positions of the Manbij Military Council despite an earlier joint Turkish-US patrol two days earlier aimed at minimizing conflict in the embattled city.
“Islamist factions within Euphrates Shield have fired with heavy weapons towards areas in Hamran, northwest of Manbij, as well, as they targeted positions of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the UK-based human rights watchdog said.
According to a public statement of the Manbij Civil Council, “the so-called Euphrates Shield factions before a while from the village of Hamran, located northeast of Manbij they have fired on the other side, targeted some positions of the MMC on the line of Sajur.”
“[They] targeted some civilians who were working in their own lands in cultivating olives using BKC [heavy machine gun] weapons and that resulted in fear and panic of civilians and obliged them to leave their work and run away,” the SDF-backed council that rules Manbij said.
According to SOHR, the targeting comes after joint Turkish-US patrols started on Nov. 1 in an area separating the Turkish-backed Euphrates Shield Forces and the SDF-backed Manbij Military Council.
Turkish and US troops carried out another joint patrol on Nov. 8, which was confirmed by the spokesperson of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) Shervan Derwish on social media.
In June, Turkey and the US agreed on a Manbij roadmap, which includes US-Turkish forces patrolling the demarcation line between SDF forces and the Turkish-backed forces. However, tensions continued between the US and Turkey over US support for Syrian Kurdish groups.
Since Oct. 31, Turkey has carried out cross-border shelling near Tal Abyad and Kobani. On 8 November, an SDF official said Turkey again shelled villages in the same areas.
Mustafa Bali, a SDF official told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that “every time Daesh [IS] becomes weak, Turkey attempts some efforts to give power to Daesh.”
According to Executive Director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis Seth J. Frantzman, the US will try to prevent further Turkish cross-border attacks to avoid instability in an already fragile eastern Syria that could “sabotage the Coalition’s anti-ISIS campaign.”
“Already, the SDF is facing a difficult battle in Hajin and paused operations when the shelling began,” Frantzman said.
“Washington wants to balance its improving relationship with Ankara in the wake of the Pastor Brunson release and the Khashoggi affair, with its mission in Syria.”
Editing by John J. Catherine