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Turkey shells US-backed Kurdish-led militia in northern Syria, halting anti-Daesh operation

By Reuters - Oct 31,2018 - Last updated at Oct 31,2018

Syrian Kurds wave flags printed with the portrait of Kurdistan Workers Party leader Abdullah Ocalan as they demonstrate in Qamishli against Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria on Wednesday (AFP photo)

ANKARA/BEIRUT — Turkish forces shelled a Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria, killing four Kurdish fighters, Turkish state broadcaster TRT said on Wednesday, and Kurdish-led forces said they responded to Turkish attacks by hitting a Turkish army vehicle.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the Turkish attacks had led to a temporary halt in the US-backed campaign it is waging against Daesh near the Iraqi border.

Turkey has repeatedly warned it would launch a cross-border offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia east of the Euphrates River in Syria, if the US military which supports the Kurdish fighters does not ensure their withdrawal.

The SDF, including the YPG, is the main US partner in the fight against Daesh in Syria and controls a swathe of the north and east — the biggest chunk of the country after the area held by the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

TRT said barrages of howitzer shells were launched at the Ayn Al Arab, or Kobani region, from Turkey's south eastern province of Sanliurfa, along the Syrian border. Four militants were killed and six wounded in the strikes on the region.

The SDF, in a statement, said Turkish forces were attacking its positions along the length of the border. SDF forces had responded by destroying a Turkish military vehicle, it said, without giving the location. The SDF reserved the "right to respond to all kinds of attacks".

The SDF general command said in separate statement that the Turkish attacks had led to the temporary halt of the campaign it is waging against Daesh in the Deir Ezzor region.

"The continuation of these attacks will cause a long halt in our military campaign against [Daesh]," it said.

"We call on the international coalition to show a firm position to deter Turkey from these attacks," the SDF said.

On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to crush Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates River in Syria — the area where Ayn al Arab, or Kobani, is located.

Over the past two years, Turkish forces have already swept into Syria to push YPG fighters out of territory west of the Euphrates in two separate military campaigns.

Past offensives halted at the banks of the river, in part to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, which has troops alongside the Kurdish fighters further east.

But Erdogan said Turkey was now prepared to press on, issuing what he said was a "final warning" last week to those who would endanger Turkey's borders.

He said Turkey would focus its attention east of the Euphrates, rather than the city of Manbij where Turkish and US forces agreed in June to carry out joint patrols.

Turkish forces had bombarded YPG positions on Sunday on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River, Anadolu said.

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