The commander of Kurdish fighters in Syria’s Manbij city has told Al Jazeera that his forces will fight to defend any move by Turkey to take over the area.
Adnan Abu Amjad’s comment came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that when his country’s forces finished helping Syrian opposition fighters take over Al Bab from ISIL , they would move on to Manbij and then ISIL’s self-declared capital Raqqa.
Erdogan said he wants to set up a safe zone near the Turkish border and clear all Kurdish forces from the area.
Abu Amjad said: “If Erdogan wants to come to Manbij, it’s his business, but we will defend our city with all the strength we can find. As Syrian people, we’ll resist any interference in our internal affairs.”
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by mainly Kurdish ground forces freed Manbij from the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group last year.
However, the US backing for Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) – an alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia – has caused anger in Turkey.
Since Donald Trump became the US president, Erdogan has offered to join the fight against ISIL, also known as ISIS, in Raqqa. But he does not want Kurds , who had launched a campaign to encircle the city in November, to participate.
It is not yet clear whether Trump’s administration will provide weapons to the YPG over Turkey’s objections.
The US says weapons provided to the SDF are so far limited to its Arab elements, but Turkey says the arms are going to the SDF and is asking for a halt.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Britain-based monitoring group, said three people were killed in the attack on Saturday.
The latest violence brought the death toll since the bombardment of the district resumed earlier this month to at least 30 people.
An opposition media activist in al-Waer said two people were killed in Saturday’s bombing and the overall toll this month was more than 20.
Pro-Syrian government media outlets have said strikes were in response to rebels firing at residential areas of government-held Homs neighbourhoods.
Syria has tried to conclude a deal in al-Waer that would see rebel fighters and their families leave the district and the government take over.
Under similar local agreements in other parts of western Syria, rebels have left with light weapons and headed mostly for Idlib province.
The opposition says such agreements are part of a government strategy to forcibly displace populations from opposition-held areas after years of siege and bombardment.
In September, about 120 rebel fighters and their families left al-Waer in agreement with the government , but there have been no further reports of rebels leaving.
The SOHR estimates several thousand fighters remain there.