Syrian troops have begun sweeping into Kurdish-held territory on a collision course with Turkish forces and their allies, a day after the beleaguered Kurds agreed to hand over key cities to Damascus in exchange for protection, The Guardian reported.
The deal, which Kurdish leaders emphasised they had made reluctantly after five days of relentless bombardment by Turkish artillery and jets, threatens to open a new front in Syria’s nearly nine-year civil war, and signals the likely end of U.S. and European military deployments in the country’s north-east.
There were multiple reports overnight and on Monday morning that Syrian soldiers had entered the Kurdish-held cities of Manbij and Kobane. The Syrian army said in a statement on Monday its troops had reached Tel Tamr, a city about 12 miles from the Turkish border, The Guardian adds.
There were unconfirmed reports that Syrian troops had clashed overnight with Kurdish fighters in the city of Qamishli, which was not surrendered to Damascus in Sunday’s Russian-brokered agreement.
Turkish fighters and their allies were continuing to attack Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, two cities that have been the focus of Ankara’s mission to push Kurdish fighters, whom it considers to be terrorists, away from its southern border and create a buffer zone where it says it will resettle at least one million Syrian refugees.
The prospect of fighting between Syrian troops and Turkish soldiers and their allies raised deep concerns over the security of the estimated 11,000 Islamic State fighters and their families who are detained across the region. More than 700 people with links to the terrorist group escaped from detention camps in the area on Sunday.