A Syrian group accused by Turkey of being involved in the November 13 Istanbul bombings has said it will not participate in anti-terrorist operations with the United States and other allies, as they attack Turkey.
The spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls areas in northern Syria, said on Friday “full cooperation in the fight against terrorism” with the US-led group that is fighting the remnants of ISIS (ISIS) in Syria and “all. operations specials that we used to do regularly” had been stopped.
The SDF, which is mainly made up of the Kurdish group led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), was the main US force in Syria in the fight against ISIL (ISIS).
However, Ankara considers the YPG to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group known as a “terrorist” group in Turkey, the US and the European Union.
Turkey has increased its shelling and airstrikes in northern Syria in recent weeks and is planning an operation against the YPG.
Turkish officials blamed the group, as well as the PKK, for carrying out the bombings in Istanbul, which killed six people, and said the gunman admitted to having been trained by the PKK in Syria.
The PKK, which has been at war with Turkey since 1984, and allied groups have carried out violence in Istanbul and elsewhere in the country.
The SDF has long threatened that fighting a new Turkish offensive would divert resources from defending a prison holding ISIL fighters or fighting ISIL sleeper cells still under attack in Syria.
Turkey’s bombardment – the use of long-range missiles and airstrikes – has upset NATO ally Washington.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday that the US “strongly opposes any new Turkish military operation in Syria”.
Austin also said that the Turkish terrorist attack “directly threatened the security of US personnel who are working with our Syrian partners to defeat ISIS”, according to the Pentagon.
However, Turkey has criticized the US and other countries that oppose the SDF rebels for not taking Ankara’s security into account.
Turkey has carried out previous operations against the SDF and YPG in northern Syria, capturing large areas. However, these groups continue to exist on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border, which Ankara is determined must end.
Shells and shells from northern Syria have reached Turkish border towns, killing three people in Karkamis on November 21.
The US-led coalition has supported the SDF with airstrikes, artillery and advisers since 2017, first helping to retake territory from ISIL and helping clean up sleeper cells.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters earlier that only one patrol had been suspended and that operations against ISIL had not stopped.
The US-led coalition did not immediately respond to questions from the Reuters news agency on Friday about whether other activities had been suspended.
Sheikhmous Ahmed, head of the SDF’s deportation department in northeastern Syria, told Reuters that the Turkish offensive in late November disrupted operations in and around al-Hol, a prison where women and children linked to ISIL fighters are held.
He said that humanitarian operations were suspended for several days and that some children who are affiliated with ISIL tried to escape but were captured.
A Western expert briefed on the matter confirmed that there was a “disturbing movement” in the region where women and children linked to ISIL abroad were held.
SDF leader Mazloum Abdi said earlier this week that he wanted a “strong” message from Washington after seeing Turkey’s unprecedented deployment to the border.
“We are still scared. We need strong and strong words to stop Turkey,” he said. “Turkey has announced its intentions and now it feels better. The start of the attack will depend on how it reflects the situation of other countries. “