US, Turkey begin patrols around northern Syrian town

Turkey denies top Saudi prosecutor’s request for whole Khashoggi file report

The U.S. -backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces said Turkey has carried out at least six attacks against villages along the borders, killing one fighter and a border guard and damaging properties.

Turkey sees Kurdish elements of the SDF as linked to the separatist group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the United States identifies as a terrorist group.

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.

The U.S. expressed "great concern" over Turkey's shelling of U.S. -backed Kurdish fighters in an area of northern Syria where American forces are embedded, an offensive that has added a new strain to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies' already rocky ties.

A designated and bilaterally agreed upon ground force commander will lead the joint patrols, the US-led coalition said.

Turkey considers the militia a terror threat and an extension of Kurdish rebels waging an insurgency within Turkey.

"Unilateral military strikes into northwest Syria by any party, particularly as American personnel may be present or in the vicinity, are of great concern to us", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters on Wednesday.

Kurdish news agency Hawar News reported that the joint patrols took place 19 kilometers from the city with three United States and three Turkish vehicles, starting from the village of Arab Hassan. Turkey had repeatedly threatened to attack the town despite the presence of USA forces in the area. At the time, the SDF said it sent its fighters to defend the enclave, and accused Turkey of jeopardizing the anti-ISIS campaign.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also said the patrols will begin Thursday adding that they follow days of Turkish shelling of positions of the main Kurdish militia.

The YPG claimed a photo showed its forces destroying a Turkish military vehicle near Kobane on Wednesday morning. The continuation of Turkish attacks, the group said, would further delay the offensive on the ISIS-held pocket of Hajin.

Ankara and Washington agreed on a road map in June amid Turkish demands for the withdrawal of the YPG, which freed Manbij from ISIS in 2016.

Two US military officials confirmed that the Turkish military had shelled SDF positions in northern Syria in recent days.

"We have wrapped up training for US-Turkish patrols in Manbij and will start to carry out such patrols today or tomorrow". Conducting joint patrols is seen as a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups in the area.

As a result of the road map, the Manbij Military Council announced in July that all Kurdish militia who were associated with YPG had left.

The escalation comes a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party lawmakers that the military was preparing to launch an operation against Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates River.

The YPG "should know it will be buried in the trenches it has dug", Akar said.

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