21:23 GMT29 January 2020
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    Kurdish forces are determined to protect Manbij against Turkish military and Ankara-backed rebels if they try to retake the strategically important Syrian city located in the Aleppo province, Ilham Ehmed, co-leader of the Syrian Democratic Council and a senior member of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Sputnik Turkey.

    "The military council and locals will mount fierce resistance if Manbij is attacked," she said.

    Ilham Ehmed's comments came in response to Turkish authorities reaffirming their plans to advance on Manbij once the operation to free Daesh-held al-Bab is complete.

    Manbij was under Daesh's control since January 2014. In August 2016, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pushed the brutal group out of the city following a two-month-long offensive. The SDF then established the Manbij Military Council to provide security to and administer the embattled city. 

    Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters greet civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016
    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters greet civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016

    "Turkey has chosen the administration created in northern Syria as a direct target for its attacks. Turkey has openly stated that it is determined to launch an attack on the territory controlled by Kurdish forces. … Turkey has said that it plans to capture Manbij and Afrin after al-Bab," she noted. Ankara has said that its Operation Euphrates Shield is primarily aimed at fighting Daesh, "however, there are no Daesh fighters in Manbij," she pointed out.

    Ankara launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to push Daesh out of cities and settlements located on Syria's border with Turkey. The military intervention has also been aimed at preventing Kurdish forces from moving further west and linking areas they control into a single border region.

    In early January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Ankara will not stop its campaign "until we clear Manbij, al-Bab and other regions from terror." Turkish authorities maintain that the PYD, a leading Kurdish political party in northern Syria, and its armed wing, known as People's Protection Units (YPG), are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

    In this undated file image posted on Monday, June 30, 2014, by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, north Syria
    © AP Photo / Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File
    Ankara maintains that the PKK is a terrorist organization. As a result, it has viewed any success that Syrian Kurds might achieve as fuelling unrest in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces. For its part, Washington has relied extensively on the Kurds in its anti-Daesh efforts, much to Turkey's discontent.

    Erdogan reiterated that Anakra views Manbij and Raqqa as the next goals of Operation Euphrates Shield on Monday.

    Ilham Ehmed suggested that Turkey is not interested in bringing peace and stability to Syria.

    "Ankara is trying to take Syria under control by seizing Manbij and other regions. This lies at the heart of its intervention and combat operations in Syria," she said.


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    Syrian crisis, Syrian conflict, military operation, military operation in Syria, Syrian Kurds, Operation Euphrates Shield, Syrian Democratic Council, Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Ilham Ehmed, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, al-Bab, Manbij, Syria, Turkey
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