'Turkey will hit PKK/PYD in Manbij unless it retreats'

The YPG helped capture Manbij from Islamic State past year in a USA -backed campaign fought under the SDF banner.

Kurdish-led forces captured the northern town of Manbij from IS last August, prompting Turkey to deploy troops into northern Syria.

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The Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels attacked villages held by USA -allied militias near the city of Manbij in northern Syria on Wednesday, a spokesman for the militias said, an escalation of Turkey's military campaign in the border area.

Last month Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iran of trying to destabilize Syria and Iraq and of sectarianism, prompting Tehran to summon Ankara's ambassador. At this point, all the easily claimable ISIS cities are gone, and Turkey's forces are increasingly bumping up against the forces of the Syrian government.

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"We have said that we would strike if the YPG fails to withdraw", Cavusoglu said, using the acronym of a prominent Syrian Kurdish militant group. The army has also clashed with Kurdish groups that Ankara classifies as terrorist organizations with links to separatists at home. The YPG has subsequently said it has withdrawn from Manbij.

The U.S. Defense Department is not aware of any agreement between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Assad regime to hand over the territories in the west of Manbij to Assad-allied forces, a Pentagon spokesman said. But Turkey continues to assert that the group remains in the city. Top Turkish officials are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to dissolve the American military partnership with Syrian Kurds in the battle against IS. "The number, the size of them, and how many Kurdish units are participating in that, I can't really say right now".

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