Syrian Kurds demonstrate in Qamishli, northeast Syria, against Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia posts
Beirut (AFP) - A Kurdish-led force backed by a US-led coalition said Wednesday it was suspending operations against the Islamic State group after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, joint Arab-Kurdish units led by the Kurds, announced a "temporary halt" to their operation, launched in eastern Syria on September 10, and condemned Turkey's "provocations".
On Wednesday, Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions in the Kobane sector of northern Syria killed four fighters, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.
The SDF condemned what it called the "coordination" of Turkey's attacks with a fightback by jihadists and warned of "a prolonged halt to our military operation" against IS if Ankara keeps up its strikes.
Hundreds of Kurdish civilians, carrying party flags, demonstrated in the streets of the northeastern city of Qamishli to denounce the Turkish attacks.
Backed by coalition air strikes, the SDF aims to expel IS from a holdout on the Iraqi border, but the jihadists staged a vicious fightback last week under the cover of a sand storm, forcing a retreat.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the IS counter-attack killed at least 72 fighters from the SDF, which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
The monitoring group said hundreds of Kurdish fighters, men and women, had since been deployed on the outskirts of the IS holdout of Hajin.
On Tuesday, two days after another round of shelling of Kurdish posts in northern Syria, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had completed preparations for a new operation to "destroy" the YPG militia, which Ankara has branded a terrorist group.
The YPG has worked closely with the United States in the fight against IS jihadists in Syria, straining ties between Washington and Ankara.