Kurdish fighters put up fierce resistance yesterday to Turkish forces battling to seize a key town in northeastern Syria, as the violence forced international aid organisations to halt their activities.
The United States slapped sanctions on its Nato ally in a bid to stop an assault that its own troop withdrawal triggered, but Ankara showed no sign of relenting.
Britain yesterday said it was suspending military exports to Turkey and China called on Ankara to stop its military action in northern Syria.
Syria’s regime dispatched more troops to the northeast to contain Ankara’s advance -- their most significant deployment in the Kurdish-controlled region since they started withdrawing from the area in 2012.
It follows a deal clinched Sunday between Damascus and the Kurds that saw government troops raise the Syrian flag in the flashpoint northern city of Manbij yesterday, after US forces pulled out.
Regime troops had entered the city near the border on Monday night, as pro-Turkey fighters massed to the west ahead of a planned assault.
Kurdish combatants from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are battling Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies -- mostly former rebels paid and equipped by Ankara -- in various parts of the northeast.
East of Manbij, the Kurds are mounting a desperate defence in the border town of Ras al-Ain, using a dense network of tunnels, berms and trenches.
They launched “a large counterattack against Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies near Ras al-Ain,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.