Turkish cross-border fire kills four YPG members in Syria


US and Turkish forces have begun joint patrols in the area of Manbij, Syria, where Kurdish militia have been critical to defeating Islamic State fighters.

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

The Turkish stance also reflects the desire to defeat the Kurdish militia in the eastern Euphrates after they had already pushed them to retreat from the western side of the river in two cross-border operations in 2016 and 2018.

The SDF now controls more than a quarter of Syrian territory after its Kurdish dominated forces beat back IS jihadists with U.S. support over the past three years.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to crush separatist Kurdish militants operating in Syria along his country's border, seeing them as an extension of the separatist Kurdish PKK group classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the European Union.

The defense minister also touched upon the Manbij deal between Turkey and the USA, saying that "despite the promises" made for the YPG's withdrawal from the city, the group was still deployed there.

"The terror group is digging trenches in Manbij as they have done in Afrin, despite promises made by the USA about PKK/PYD/YPG's withdrawal from Manbij", Akar told lawmakers in a planning and budget committee meeting.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Tuesday that Turkey had plans to target US -backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Ankara, however, views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey, the USA and European Union all consider to be a terrorist organization.

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The US State Department had quickly expressed its "concern" over the attack targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which form the backbone of the SDF.

The halting of the operation is a major setback for the USA and its allies and comes after Turkey threatened a new military operation targeting the Kurdish-led SDF.

To avert more fighting, the United States and Turkey agreed three months ago to hold joint patrols around Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates River, under a deal that also saw Kurdish fighters withdraw from the city. At the time, the SDF said it sent its fighters to defend the enclave, and accused Turkey of jeopardizing the anti-ISIS campaign.

Earlier this year, Turkey and the USA agreed the YPG militia would withdraw from Manbij.

Four YPG militia in Syria's Ayn Al-Arab region, or Kobani, were killed by the Turkish army on Wednesday afternoon, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

"Erdogan has nationalists who are breathing down his neck", and a lot of rhetoric and probably some military activity and incursion can be expected but the situation is unlikely to result in a broader showdown between the allies, Skinner said in an interview in Ankara on Wednesday. Conducting joint patrols is seen as a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups in the area.

Despite an agreement between Ankara and Washington to cooperate in Syria in a strategic town in the north, Turkey had recently threatened to expand its operations in Syria to go after Kurdish forces working in northeast Syria, where the campaign against ISIS continues.

Sharfan Darwish, spokesman of the Manbij Military Council, told The Associated Press earlier that the patrols were taking place on the front lines between his group and those of Turkey-backed factions in the operation called Euphrates Shield.