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Syrian Kurds stop all joint operations with US-led coalition

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) November 13, 2019 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]
A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) November 13, 2019 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group that helped defeat Daesh in Syria, announced on Friday that it had stopped all joint counter-terrorism operations with the US and other allies as a result of the Turkish bombing of its area of ​​control.

Turkiye has intensified its bombing and air strikes on northern Syria in the past weeks and is preparing for a ground operation targeting Syrian Kurdish fighters, which it describes as "terrorists". However, they make up the bulk of the US-backed SDF.

The SDF has long warned that confronting any new Turkish invasion will divert resources away from protecting a prison that houses Daesh fighters or targeting the organisation's sleeper cells that are still launching hit-and-run attacks in Syria.

Aram Hanna, a spokesperson for the SDF, told Reuters: "All coordination and joint counter-terrorism operations with the US-led coalition battling remnants of Daesh in Syria, as well as all the joint special operations we were carrying out regularly, have been halted."

The Turkish attack, using long-range weapons and air strikes, has upset the US, Ankara's ally in NATO.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin told his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday that the US was in: "Strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria."

READ: US reduces patrols in northern Syria

Austin also said Turkish raids: "Directly threatened the safety of US soldiers working with local partners in Syria to defeat Daesh," according to the Pentagon.

The US-led coalition has supported the SDF with air strikes, military equipment and advisors since 2017, first helping them retake territory from Daesh and then supporting clearing operations against militant sleeper cells.

Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters earlier that operations against Daesh had not stopped.

The US-led coalition did not immediately respond to Reuters on Friday about whether further operations had been suspended.

Head of the Refugee Affairs Office at the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), Sheikhmous Ahmed, told Reuters that the Turkish raids in late November had disrupted operations in and around Al-Hol, a detention camp where women and children affiliated with Daesh fighters are held.

Ahmed said that the humanitarian operations stopped for several days, explaining that some minors belonging to the organisation tried to flee but were caught.

A Western source familiar with the matter confirmed that there has been "some worrying movement" in the area where foreign Daesh-linked women and children were held.

Mazloum Abdi, commander of the SDF, told Reuters earlier this week that he wanted a "stronger" message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments on the border.

"We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkiye," he urged.

READ: US affirms right of Turkiye to defend itself, urges restraint in northern Syria

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