A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) participates in a demonstration in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on December 28, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Beirut: The Syrian army said it entered Manbij on Friday for the first time in years, after the Kurdish YPG milita urged Damascus to protect the town from the threat of Turkish attacks.

It was unclear whether the government forces had spread out in the town, where US forces operate and have a military base.

With the YPG at its forefront, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized Manbij in 2016 from Daesh, a milestone in the US-backed battle against the terrorists.

The Manbij Military Council, fighters allied to the SDF, hold the town in northern Syria, which lies on a front with Turkey-backed rebels.

Ankara deems the Kurdish YPG fighters a threat and has vowed to crush them.

The Syrian army said in its statement on Friday that its troops had raised the national flag in Manbij and would guarantee security “for all Syrian citizens and others present in the area”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the troops had deployed only along the edges of Manbij, standing between the town and Turkey’s rebel allies.

President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to pull out some 2,000 US troops, whose presence has deterred Turkey, has alarmed the SDF, which controls much of northern and eastern Syria.

The YPG says its fighters previously withdrew from Manbij to fight Daesh terrorists in eastern Syria.

“So we invite the Syrian government which we belong to...to send its armed forces to take over these positions and protect Manbij in the face of Turkish threats,” it said on Friday.

Russia on Friday hailed as “positive” the Syrian army’s entry.

“Of course, this will help in stabilising the situation. The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces... is without doubt a positive trend,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Kurdish forces who were left exposed by a US pledge to pull out its own troops, have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.

Peskov said the situation would be discussed Saturday during a visit to Moscow by the Turkish foreign affairs and defence ministers, to “clarify” the situation and “synchronise actions” between the two countries.

Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Al Assad’s forces.