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UPDATE by the Kurdish Institute staff: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are trying to recaptrure Al-Arima, a city held by Daesh (IS) between Manbij and al-Bab,while Turkish airplanes are bombing them at the same time. Also multiple attacks by Turkish ‘FSA’-rebels on SDF positions around Manbij.

Published by Ekurd Daily on November 23, 2016

AL-BAB,— Fierce clashes have been reported between Turkey-backed fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Kurdish-led troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near the Syrian city of Al-Bab in Aleppo Province, 35 kilometers from the Turkish border.

Clashes are concentrated in villages and residential areas along the highway connecting Manbij and Al-Bab, the Sputnik Turkiye reported.

FSA fighters backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery are trying to prevent SDF forces from opening a corridor between Afrin and Kobani, two cantons strategically important for Kurds.

SDF positions have come under heavy bombardment. At the same time, units of the Military Council of Manbij are fighting the Free Syrian Army. One of council commanders Abu Amjed told Sputnik Turkiye that over the recent days, Turkey has carried out four airstrikes on SDF positions in nearby villages, killing one and injuring three fighters.

Three Turkish tanks have now been destroyed since the Turkey-FSA attacks began on Sunday, ANHA news reported.

The Turkish army and FSA rebels continue attacking western Manbij villages. The Manbij Military Council has been responding to the attacks which consist of strikes, shelling and firing. Kurdish-led fighters destroyed a Turkish tank between the Manbij villages of Beshemele and Cibildem, it has been reported on Wednesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are a rebel group predominantly consisting of the Kurdish fighters, as well as of Arabs and Turkmen forces, who are jointly fighting against the Islamic State group (IS) group. The powerful Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the main force of the SDF group. The SDF has long been supported by a United States-led coalition.

The SDF alliance has a total of about 30,000 Kurdish fighters and about 5,000 Arab fighters.

The Free Syrian Army is a Turkey-sponsored militant group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Earlier, FSA fighters underwent an arming and training program by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

On August 24, Turkey has launched an incursion into northern Syria to stop the US-backed Kurdish YPG forces from connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hasaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west. Turkish military operations are focused on Syrian Kurdish forces and not Islamic State, observers say.

The FSA fighters were involved in a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, which was dubbed Euphrates Shield. This not the first time FSA and SDF fighters have clashed during the war in Syria. In late-August, clashes between the FSA and the SDF broke out after the Euphrates Shield operation began. The clashes took place near Tel Amaranth village north of Manbij, about 7 kilometers from the town of Jarabulus in northern Syria. Ankara sees the SDF as an enemy because of the fact that Kurds make up the backbone of the group.

Turkey considers the YPG to be an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), labelled as a terrorist group and outlawed in the country.

But the U.S. regards the Kurdish YPG as key ally against Islamic State and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with air support as well as the military advisers. The Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.

Since early-November, Kurdish SDF forces have been involved in a coalition-led operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the IS self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq. According to sources in the SDF command, the second stage of the offensive will soon begin.

Earlier this week, it was reported that SDF forces were close to driving IS out of a key road linking Kobani and Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria). Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the FSA is encircling the city of Al-Bab in northern Syria and will soon retake it from the IS militants with support of the Turkish armed forces.

The liberation of a corridor between Afrin and Kobani would be another step to the creation of a Kurdish autonomy in Syrian Kurdistan, which will be a heavy blow to Ankara’s plans. When the Turkish military launched the Euphrates Shield operation, its official goal was declared fighting IS. However, many experts and commentators pointed out that Ankara has targeted Kurds, in a bid to prevent Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria.

Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.

Turkey fears the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan — similar to the Kurdish region in Iraqi Kurdistan — would spur the separatist ambitions of Turkey’s own Kurds.

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