Turkish president threatens to target US-backed Kurdish fighters

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Turkish and US troops began joint patrols in northern Syria on Thursday aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington's Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds.

"As a result of the infrastructure work and the security and stability in the region provided by the Turkish Armed Forces, around 260,000 Syrian nationals have returned to the Euphrates Shield Operation area", Akar told lawmakers at the planning and budget commission in parliament.

The SDF now controls more than a quarter of Syrian territory after its Kurdish dominated forces beat back IS jihadists with U.S. support over the past three years.

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS has conducted scores of air and artillery strikes in recent weeks as it has sought to drive ISIS from its last stronghold east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

Russian state-affiliated news agency Sputnik quoted Pentagon spokesperson Sean Robertson as saying that the U.S. was "in touch" with both Turkey and the SDF to "de-escalate the situation" on Tuesday.

Turkish authorities have been pointing out a possible move on east of the Euphrates River, as it aims to free its borders from terror threat.

Turkey's state-run news agency says the Turkish military has shelled positions held by USA -backed Kurdish fighters across the border east of the Euphrates River in Syria, killing four Kurdish fighters and wounding six others.

Turkey's relations with the US have been badly strained over Washington's support for the Kurdish fighters, and while a direct confrontation between their forces is unlikely, Turkey's vow to clear the Kurdish force from areas where USA troops are stationed requires extreme care to avoid unintended American casualties.

"Unilateral military strikes into northwest Syria by any party, particularly as American personnel may be present or in the vicinity, are of great concern to us", Deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

According to the Turkish state Anadolu news agency, Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish forces in the Zor Moghar village in Aleppo on Sunday.

Ankara says the YPG is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency in Turkey since 1984 with the goal of forming an independent Kurdish state. The campaign against ISIS "is not over and that fight remains hard", he said.

Earlier this year, Turkey and the USA agreed the YPG would withdraw from Manbij. Joint patrols are considered a way to tamp down potential violence between the various groups in the region.

For now, Russian Federation seems to support Turkey's military moves on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Kurdish units liberated Manbij from Daesh* in 2016.

Ankara has already backed Syrian rebels to push the Kurdish forces out of the northern enclave of Afrin earlier this year.