TAL TAMR, SYRIA / WASHINGTON - Intense clashes continue between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed militants in the northeastern Syrian town of Tal Tamr, despite a U.S. push for cease-fire, local officials said Friday.
Kurdish officials told VOA that firefights in the villages of Anek al-Hawa, Tal Muhammad, Khirbet Jammu and Mahmudiya continued as Syrian militia, supported by Turkey, attempted to enter Tal Tamr from seven kilometers outside town.
'We will have victory'
"Yesterday, we faced fierce attacks and there was a lot of resistance,"Benas Ziber, an SDF field commander, told VOA. "We lost some villages, but our comrades later repelled the attacks and made progress in some villages, such as Mahmudiya and Khirbet Jammu."
Ziber said fighting later focused on Qasimiyah and Mahmudiya villages as SDF fighters tried to repel advances by Turkish-backed forces. He said the SDF was determined to fight back, vowing, "We will have victory and will not give up one meter of our land."
The reports of fighting come as U.S. officials said they are continuing to push the SDF and Turkey to halt the clashes and stick to a cease-fire that was agreed to last month. U.S. officials claim the cease-fire deal is “mostly” holding despite repeated violations.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said that in a telephone conversation the day before with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, he reaffirmed the U.S. position, emphasizing the need for both sides to stick to the agreement struck by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 17.
"The secretary noted our position requiring that the Turkish military, the Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces, and the withdrawal of YPG forces be in accordance with the statement regarding the safe zone," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
The YPG is the Kurdish component of the SDF and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey. The U.S., however, disagrees with the designation and considers the YPG a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State.
Incursion into Syria
The Turkish military and its allied Syrian militia on Oct. 9 started a military incursion into northeast Syria against the SDF, following U.S. President Donald Trump's earlier decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region.
The U.N. estimates the operation killed hundreds and displaced nearly 180,000 people before an agreement was reached between the U.S. and Turkey to halt fire.
Local doctors in northeast Syria told VOA that 206 civilians had died in the fighting, with another 1,086 people injured.
"Although the cease-fire agreement has been signed between the U.S. and Turkey, as well as Russia and Turkey, the fighting has not stopped for a second. On the contrary, attacks have become more fierce and violent,"said Hesen MI Memmed, the head of Tal Tamr Hospital.
He expressed his concern that hospitals in the region were running out of medical supplies as the number of casualties continued to increase.