U.S. Coalition Exchanged Fire With Rebels in Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
U.S. Syria
A Kurdish fighter of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) standing guards as U.S. forces take up positions in the northern village of Darbasiyah, Syria, in April, when the U.S. moved troops and armored vehicles through several Syrian cities in a show of force apparently intended to dissuade Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces from attacking each other. (AP Photo via APTV)

U.S.-led coalition forces returned fire after being repeatedly shot at near Manbij in northern Syria, where they are patrolling near areas held by Turkish-backed rebels, coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said by phone on Tuesday.

“Our forces did receive fire and return fire and then moved to a secure location,” said Dillon.

The coalition has told Turkey to tell the rebels it backs there that firing on U.S.-led coalition forces “is not acceptable,” Dillon said.

U.S. ground forces are in northern Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a local alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias battling the Islamic State terror group.

Last year, Turkey backed Syrian rebel groups in an offensive next to SDF-held areas aimed at both pushing Islamic State from the border and quelling the expansion of Kurdish influence.

The Turkish-backed rebels and the SDF have often exchanged small-arms and artillery fire in other parts of northern Syria where U.S.-led coalition forces are not patrolling.

“Our overt patrols that have been conducting patrols in that area to keep tensions down received fire multiple times over the course of the last two weeks,” Dillon said.

“We let our counterparts in Turkey know this and we continue to conduct these patrols, but are always prepared and ready to defend ourselves in that area.”