Pro-Syrian government troops enroute to Syria’s Afrin region, a Kurdish area where Turkish troops have mounted a month-long offensive, retreated Tuesday after Turkish artillery fired warning shots, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Syrian Kurdish militia and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights founder Rami Abdul Rahman confirmed the pro-Syrian government troops began entering the Kurdish enclave earlier Tuesday before the warning strikes.
Syria’s state media televised a convoy of about 20 machine gun-armed vehicles entering Afrin from the village of Nubul.
In Washington, the State Department said U.S. knowledge in what’s going on in Afrin is “somewhat limited” because American forces are not there.
“The United States is not operating in Afrin. The United States is not equipping anyone in Afrin,” spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a briefing on Tuesday.
Nauert urged all sides to avoid civilian casualties and not to take “actions that would escalate and exacerbate tensions.”
There was no immediate word from Kurdish officials about the deployment, but on Monday state media reported pro-Syrian government forces would go to Afrin to “join the resistance against the Turkish aggression.”
The deployment came one day after Turkey warned the Syrian government not to enter the area, saying it would retaliate if the troops tried to protect Kurdish fighters.
Turkey launched its offense on Jan. 20 to rid the area of Kurdish forces. Turkey considers Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their association with outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.