Assad's forces enter northern Syria's Manbij as Turkish offensive looms - reports

Syrian forces deployed at Manbij region, Turkey's state-funded Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

"40 pickup trucks carrying soldiers, two tanks, trucks carrying equipment and armoured vehicles made an entrance to the Arimah town in the western countryside of Manbij," Anadolu Agency said.

Arimah is located between Manbij and the areas that Turkey took control after Operation Euphrates Shield. Manbij, a major flashpoint between Ankara and Washington, is under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a United States ally that Turkey views as an extension of the Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK), with which it has been fighting for decades in southeast Turkey. 

Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in Manbij on Nov. 1 as part of an agreement that focuses on the withdrawal of YPG from the city.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 17 said Turkey is set to launch a cross-border military operation into neighbouring Syria "any moment now".

On Dec. 19, the White House announced that U.S. troops in northeastern Syria would withdraw from the region, as it said the Islamic State had been defeated. 

Turkish army on Dec. 22 sent military reinforcements to northern Syria's Manbij, an area controlled by Kurdish forces, as Ankara threatens to carry out a new offensive to wipe them out. 

"Tens of soldiers and more than 50 military gears including trucks and armoured personnel carriers as well as other carriers that carry armoured vehicles in addition to other material and ammunition, where it headed to the countryside of Manbij area," the SOHR said. 

Turkey-backed Syrian rebel groups on Dec. 24 positioned just outside the Kurdish-controlled Syrian town of Manbij, as Ankara and Washington begin to coordinate a U.S. withdrawal from Syria.