Pro-Turkey rebels attack US-backed SDF forces near Manbij, jeopardizing Raqqa operation

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Members of the SDF check a building formerly held by ISIS in northern Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

The Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield rebels in Syria attacked positions of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), on Wednesday afternoon. This comes just one day after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to attack Manbij after completing the al-Bab operation.

“Concurrent heavy attacks on our positions in Manbij, by ISIS from south and Turkish, pro extremist militias from west, with heavy clashes,” SDF spokesman Sharvan Darwish said.

The Turkish army and allied Islamist rebels attacked the villages of Gorhiko, Holash and Halide–about 29 km southwest of Manbij, the pro-SDF ANHA agency reported.

In the meantime, ISIS attacked the villages of Mesterîhe and Cedîde, 20 km southwest of Manbij.

Fighters of the SDF-led Manbij Military Council responded to the Turkish and ISIS attacks, and clashes continued until midnight on Wednesday.

Joe Akerman, a former British volunteer with the YPG [SDF’s leading Kurdish faction], in an interview with ARA News called on the US-led coalition to intervene and stop the attacks.

“How can Turkey justify attacking the YPG [People’s Protection Units] and the SDF. And how can the coalition forces allow this to happen? Turkey should get out of Syria, they are causing more trouble than ever,” Ackerman said. “Turkey previously supplied Daesh [ISIS] and now they just give them uniforms and use the whole fight against Daesh as a cover to kill SDF and YPG fighters.”

“The attacks on the SDF in Manbij are an affront to democracy. While the multi-cultural SDF are on the verge of entering Raqqa, the Turkish-backed FSA are desperate to start a new war in the North,” said Macer Gifford, a former volunteer with the YPG who fought in Manbij.

“Turkey has shown the world that their intervention in Syria is only down to a desire to destroy the Kurdish democracy movement and not to defeat the jihadists,” Gifford told ARA News.

“On the contrary, this unilateral action from Turkey will only grant a life line to the so-called Islamic State, which is incurring heavy losses in both Iraq and Syria. If the American-backed coalition is serious about defeating ISIS and unifying Syria, then we must see universal condemnation,” he added.

“We must also see an increase in political and military support for the SDF,” Gifford stressed.

“If international pressure is not enough to sway the Turkish government, then we must consider economic and diplomatic sanctions. We can’t allow regional powers to jeopardize the war against ISIS for their own selfish national interest,” he told ARA News.

Analysts say Turkish attacks on Manbij could derail the SDF-led operation to isolate Raqqa, being forced to defend itself against Turkey. SDF officials told the US-led coalition that they would defend themselves, if Turkey attacks Manbij and stop the Raqqa campaign.

“If the Turks and their FSA allies undertake a full assault on Manbij then significant SDF resources will be diverted to protect the city. This will almost certainly delay Raqqa until peace returns,” Gifford added.

“The SDF are not foolish enough to fight a war on two fronts. The liberated areas have a responsibility to protect the integrity of their borders. If they don’t, then why should those waiting for freedom have any faith in them,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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