Battles rages one month after Turkey started Syria offensive



CAIRO, Amr Mostafa and Khalil Hamlo (dpa)– Turkey-backed rebels and Kurdish forces in north-east Syria were locked in fierce fighting on Saturday, a war monitor said, one month after Turkey launched its offensive against Kurdish militias in the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ground shelling continued between the Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led Syrian democratic Forces (SDF) in the area between the town of Tal Tamr and Abu Rasin.




Turkish warplanes were also targetting the area, leaving injuries among the Kurdish and Syrian government troops, with whom the Kurds have formed an alliance, the Britain-based watchdog added.
Turkey and allied rebels groups in Syria launched a military offensive in the country's north-east on October 9 against the SDF, which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara considers the Kurdish militants to be terrorists linked to separatist fighters in Turkey.
Since the offensive started, the Turkish forces and allied rebels have advanced on 4,820 square kilometres of territory, wresting 13.1 per cent of the lands controlled by the SDF and the Syrian government in the area from those forces, according to the Observatory.
Two ceasefire deals, first with the United States and then with Russia, brought a pause to the fighting and were intended to allow Syrian Kurdish fighters to evacuate the border area.
A commander with the pro-Turkish Syrian National Army told dpa the ceasefires have caused delay in finishing the military operation, which had been scheduled to take less time.
The Turkish operation was launched after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from the region, essentially paving the way for Turkey, a NATO partner, to invade.
The Syrian Kurdish fighters have been critical in a US-led campaign to defeat Islamic State, making Trump's decision to pull back highly controversial back home.
Critics have argued that Islamic State could win back influence as this new front opens up in Syria's long-running civil war.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin met in Istanbul with James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria, state news agency Anadolu reported.
Turkey reiterated its commitment to fighting Islamic State during the talks.
Jeffrey claimed last month that more than 100 Islamic State suspects have escaped from formerly Kurdish-run prisons since Turkey's military operation began.
Turkey, however, insists that it has captured most of the Islamic State inmates, including close associates and a wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who died during a US military operation last month.
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Saturday, November 9th 2019
Amr Mostafa and Khalil Hamlo (dpa)
           


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