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SDF resumes offensive operations against ISIS in eastern Syria

The Syrian Democratic Forces said Sunday, November 11 that it was resuming its offensive against Islamic State in eastern Syria.

The SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance, had announced it was suspending its operation against ISIS on October 31 after Turkey fired across the border at Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.

The SDF said the resumption followed “intensive contacts” with the international coalition and “strong diplomatic activity” to defuse the crisis.

“The leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces has decided to resume military operations against the Islamic State group, and work towards its definitive defeat,” the force said in an online statement.

“While it remains determined to chase down terrorism, [the SDF] also confirms its determination to protect the northern border of Syria,” it added.

The SDF, supported by the U.S.-led Coalition has since September been fighting against the last pocket of ISIS territory around Hajin in the Deir Ezzor region near the Iraq border.

Ankara views the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of the SDF, as inextricably linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, and is designated as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

But the YPG is not a proscribed organization in the United Kingdom, United States or European Union and is a key component of the U.S.-led alliance which is waging a successful campaign against ISIS in Syria.

After the SDF announced it was halting its operation, Washington said it was in communication with both sides to push for de-escalation.

In an attempt to defuse tensions, Turkish and American troops launched joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij earlier this month.

They also carried out patrols in Kurdish territories shelled by Turkey.

The SDF, supported by the U.S.-led Coalition has since September been fighting against the last pocket of ISIS territory around Hajin in the Deir Ezzor region near the Iraq border.

After making progress against the jihadists, it suffered a major setback last month when ISIS fighters launched a series of deadly counter-attacks using the cover of sand storms.

Turkey has launched two offensives west of the Euphrates since 2016.

Operation Euphrates Shield captured ISIS-held territory to the west of the river and prevented the SDF from expanding territory it had captured from the jihadists around Manbij.

Earlier this year, Turkish military forces backed Syrian opposition fighters to retake the western Efrin region from the YPG in a two-month air and ground offensive called Operation Olive Branch. There was no ISIS presence in Efrin.


With reporting from AFP

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