18:27 GMT04 December 2020
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    Earlier, President Trump doubled down on his decision to pull the estimated 2,000 troops stationed in Syria out of the country, saying the move would fulfil his campaign promise to withdraw from the "never ending wars" the US has been engaged in.

    Fresh photos have surfaced showing what appears to be the movement of Turkish military forces toward the border with Kurdish-majority-governed areas in northern Syria, possibly indicating preparations by Ankara to start a military operation against opposition forces.

    "A convoy of military vehicles and howitzers recently brought to Hatay has been moved to Gaziantep."

    "The delivery of military equipment to the Syrian border continue nonstop."

    On Monday, a Sputnik correspondent reported on the deployment of Syrian Army forces along the western border of the region of Manbij in Aleppo province. According to a source on the ground, the troops were deployed to prevent the advance of Turkish-aligned Euphrates Shield forces on the city of Manbij. 

    Before the arrival of Syrian government forces, the city had been under the control of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG.) Both groups played a large role in the fight against Daesh (ISIS)*, but have long been designated terror organisations by Ankara.

    The Kurds, who had been governing large swathes of northern and eastern Syria over the course of the conflict, reportedly invited the Syrian Army into Manbij amid reports of an imminent Turkish offensive in the area.

    Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara was ready to start a new offensive against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria. However, he later said the operation had been postponed after a telephone conversation with President Trump.

    On Saturday, Turkish media reported the continuing concentration of tanks and artillery near the Syrian border in possible preparations for an assault into the Arab Republic's territory. A day later, Russian media released footage of a Turkish military convoy reportedly moving through the southern province of Urfa toward the nearby border with Syria.

    Syria has been in a state of foreign-backed, multi-sided war since 2011, with government forces fighting a broad collection of armed militants, dominated by Islamist extremists. Syrian forces withdrew from majority-Kurdish areas in the early months of the war, leaving Kurdish militias in de-facto control. Despite rare clashes, Damascus and the Kurds have generally maintained cordial relations in the joint fight against Daesh, al-Qaeda (Nusra Front)* and other terrorists. Syrian authorities have hinted at providing Kurdish areas with some level of autonomy once the war ends.

    Turkey, Russia and Iran serve as guarantors of the ceasefire regime in Syria, which is not applicable to terrorist groups.

    * Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.


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    troop movements, reports, photos, Turkish military, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Syrian Army, Turkey, Syria
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