Kurdish Official Claims Cease-fire With Turkey, Syrian Rebels Deny

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Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces raise their flag in the center of the town of Manbij after driving ISIS out of the area, Syria, August 8, 2016.
Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces raise their flag in the center of the town of Manbij after driving ISIS out of the area, Syria, August 8, 2016.Credit: AP

REUTERS — A cease-fire is holding between Turkey and Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria, a Kurdish military official said on Tuesday, but a Syrian rebel commander characterized it only as a "pause" and added that military operations would resume soon.

The truce is between the Jarablus Military Council and Turkey, said Sharfan Darwish, spokesman for the Manbij Military Council.

Both councils are allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance of groups including the powerful Kurdish YPG militia that is fighting ISIS insurgents and has expanded along Syria's frontier with Turkey.

A subsequent statement from the Jarablus Military Council announced a temporary cease-fire "under the oversight of the international coalition led by the United States" in order to spare the people of Jarablus "the scourge of war."

The statement added that those who had overseen the cease-fire were attempting to turn it into a permanent one.

However, in an interview with Ronahi TV, Ali Hajjo, a spokesman for the council, acknowledged the cease-fire but also pledged to regain areas taken by Turkey and its allies.

"We will not stand with our hands tied. We will liberate our areas and land from the Ottoman Turkish occupation and its factions," he said. 

More than 250,000 people have died and another 11 million have been displaced in Syria's multi-sided, five-year-old civil war, which started as an uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey and Syrian rebel groups it backs seized the border town of Jarablus from ISIS this week and advanced south towards Manbij, clashing with SDF-allied groups.

Ankara fears the SDF's advances in northern Syria are aimed at establishing a Kurdish enclave that could aid Kurdish militants within Turkey's own borders.

The cease-fire is being overseen by the United States, said Ibrahim Ibrahim, head of the Rojava Media Office. Rojava is an autonomous political federation in northern Syria run by Syrian Kurdish parties and their allies.

However, a commander in one of the Turkey-supported Syrian rebel groups that have clashed with SDF-allied groups south of Jarablus said there was no cease-fire, only a pause in the military operation.

"There is no truce and no cease-fire. But there has been a pause for some time," he said, adding that the operation would resume shortly.

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