Syrian army declares entering Manbij city, following withdrawal of Kurdish militia

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-28 19:11:55|Editor: zh
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DAMASCUS, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army declared Friday entering the northern city of Manbij and raising the Syrian flag in it, following the withdrawal of Kurdish militia, according to the state TV.

"Out of the commitment of the Syrian army to handle its responsibilities, and upon the calls of the people of Manbij, the general command of the Syrian army declares entering Manbij and hosting the Syrian flag in it," the Syrian army said in a statement Friday.

The Syrian Armed Forces guarantee the security to all people in the area, the statement said, adding that "the army underscores the concerted efforts to dislodge the invaders and occupiers off of the Syrian soil."

Also on Friday, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) invited the Syrian army to enter the city of Manbij to stand in the face of a planned Turkish campaign.

In a statement released Friday, the YPG said its forces have withdrawn from Manbij, urging the Syrian forces to assume control over that city in the northern countryside of Aleppo province near the Turkish border.

"We invite the Syrian government forces ... to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particular Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion," said the YPG statement.

The YPG continued that it will focus on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group on the east of the Euphrates River.

Handing over Manbij to the Syrian army comes in light of the recent Turkish threats to launch a wide-scale campaign against the Kurdish militia in northern and northeastern Syria.

Earlier this year, the Kurdish militia lost the northern enclave of Afrin to the Turkish forces after they rejected the entry of the Syrian government forces to assume control of Afrin.

The Kurdish militia seems to have learned from that lesson, which explains their decision to hand over Manbij to the Syrian army this time.

It's worth noting that U.S. forces still have a presence in Manbij.

Earlier this year, the U.S. agreed with Turkey to run joint patrols between Manbij and its countryside, which is controlled by the Turkish-backed groups.

Ankara has urged the U.S. to push the YPG to withdraw from Manbij and later the YPG said it had withdrawn from parts of it, a claim which didn't seem to have resonated with Turkey.

Turkey deems the YPG and the allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as terrorist and separatist groups due to their links with the Turkey-banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

But with the entry of the Syrian Army, Turkey would be stripped of the pretext to launch a campaign and to enter Manbij, which is the first area the Turkish forces are planning to enter.

The Kurdish militia groups, which have been controlling areas in northern and northeastern Syria since the early time of the more than seven-year-long war, have felt the pinch after the recent decision of the U.S. forces to withdraw from Syria.

The U.S. has provided the Kurdish-backed groups with substantial aid to consolidate their gains in northern Syria and to launch offensives to retake areas held by the IS group.