Important developments have taken place in the Syrian town of Manbij where the Turkish armed forces and their proxy jihadist groups are preparing for an operation. The YPG has said, “We invite the Syrian government into regions from which we have withdrawn, especially Manbij, to defend them from Turkish attack.” The Syrian army subsequently entered Manbij following a six-year absence. Russia expressed its “satisfaction.” For its part, the US Department of Defense has refuted reports of the Syrian army entering Manbij.
Following the US decision to withdraw from Syria, thousands of jihadists supported by Turkey have been transported to the Manbij border front. Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu has also spoken of preparations being made for an operation in the Manbij district. President Tayyip Erdoğan’s first comment on today’s developments was, “Syria is engaging in psychological efforts over Manbij.” Erdoğan said, “Nothing definitive has taken shape.”
CHRONOLOGICAL ORDERING OF COMMENTS
There follows a chronological ordering of comments made until now about Manbij:
YPG: WE INVITE THE SYRIAN ARMY TO DEFEND MANBIJ
Saying that Turkey was endeavouring to repeat in Manbij what it did in al-Bab, Azaz, Jarabulus and Afrin and occupy the north of Syria and displace its people, the YPG announced that it had moved the forces it had previously withdrawn from Manbij to the battle it was waging against ISIL east of the Euphrates. The YPG said, “In connection with this, we invite the Syrian government forces to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas.”
SYRIAN ARMY: WE HAVE ENTERED MANBIJ
The Syrian army is stated to have moved into action immediately following the call and to have entered Manbij and raised the Syrian flag.
According to the Syrian Official News Agency (SANA), it was said in an announcement by a Syrian army spokesperson, “Our army, with its national responsibility to assert the state’s control over every inch of the country and at the invitation of the residents of Manbij, has entered the town and raised the flag.”
There was mention in the statement of the “need for all Syrians to combine their efforts to protect national sovereignty” and “the army’s decisiveness to crush the terrorists and defeat all invaders.”
RUSSIA: WE GREET IT WITH SATISFACTION
According to a report by Sputnik, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on being asked if they approved of control of Manbij passing to the government, “For sure (we approve). This is undoubtedly a positive step that could help stabilize the situation (in Syria).”
Peskov also added, "The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces is, without doubt, a positive trend," Peskov also indicated that the call the YPG made to the Syrian government for it to enter Manbij would be addressed tomorrow during a visit a high-level Turkish delegation would make to Moscow tomorrow.
ERDOĞAN: NOTHING DEFINITIVE HAS TAKEN SHAPE
For his part, President Tayyip Erdoğan has said, “Syria is engaging in psychological efforts and nothing definitive has taken shape.” Stating, “Our entire goal is for the YPG to get the necessary lesson here. Our decisiveness in this respect is total,” Erdoğan commented, “My delegation will go to Moscow tomorrow morning. They will go there as a four-person team by way of my Minister of Defence, my Head of Intelligence and at the same time my personal representative and my Ambassador under the chairmanship of the Foreign Minister and they will address these matters in detail there.”
US REFUTES REPORTS OF THE SYRIAN ARMY ENTERING MANBIJ
The anti-ISIS coalition stated in a post-it made on its social media account, “Despite incorrect information about changes to military forces in the city of Manbij, Syria, #CJTFOIR has seen no indication that these claims are true. We call on everyone to respect the integrity of Manbij and the safety of its citizens.”
On the other hand, according to an AA report, a Pentagon official has refuted reports of the Syrian army entering Manbij. The official said with regard to claims that the Syrian army was targeting Manbij or wished to enter the district, “We will not comment on the manoeuvres of other forces.”
MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEFENCE: DEVELOPMENTS IN MANBIJ ARE BEING MONITORED
A statement on activities in Manbij from the Ministry of National Defence included the comments, “So far, six ‘joint united patrol’ activities have been conducted in Manbij by the Turkish Armed Forces and the US Armed Forces. Activities will continue with a view to all terrorist organisations in Manbij leaving the area. Developments in the region are being monitored closely.”
JIHADISTS MOVED TO MANBIJ LINE
In the wake of the US decision to withdraw from Syria, jihadist groups supported by the Turkish Armed Forces were moved to the Manbij borderline. Following this development, the Syrian-Russian coordination centre to the west of the town has been restored and it has been reinforced with Syrian troops here.
US HELICOPTERS FLY OVER MANBIJ AT 1300 HOURS
Following the Syrian army’s announcement that it had asserted control over the Manbij district, two US helicopters were filmed flying on the Manbij-Jarabulus line.
TRT Kurdi recorded footage while shooting in daylight hours in Jarabulus district of the US helicopters flying in the airspace close to the line of the front in Manbij.
With it reported that the helicopters in the footage made a reconnaissance flight at around 1300 hours, the Syrian army was alleged to have entered Manbij at the same time.
Located to the west of the Euphrates river, Manbij was taken from ISIL by the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2016. Manbij, which was captured by the Free Syrian Army in 2012 and subsequently by ISIL in 2014, has a population of 80,000 and lies 85 kilometres from Aleppo in the south, 40 kilometres from Jarabulus in the north, 65 kilometres from Kobani in the east and 45 kilometres from al-Bab in the west. (EVRENSEL DAILY)