Top Kurdish commander says Turkey resumes fighting despite ongoing cease-fire

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By Patrick Smith  with NBC News World News
Boy wearing a Turkish flag stands next to a Turkish soldier in the town of
A boy wearing a Turkish flag stands next to a Turkish soldier in the town of Tal Abyad, Syria, on Wednesday.   -   Copyright  KHALIL ASHAWI

A senior Kurdish commander said Turkish forces had resumed attacks in northeastern Syria on Thursday, 48 hours after Turkey announced it would no longer use force in the region.

Turkey and Russia agreed on Tuesday that the two nations' troops would patrol the Syria-Turkey border, while Kurdish forces who have been key U.S. allies in fighting the Islamic State group retreat from the designated "safe zone" — a strip of land along the border where Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to resettle refugees.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the cease-fire would be permanent and announced the lifting of economic sanctions on Turkey.

But Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which controlled the area until Turkey's invasion on Oct. 9, said on Twitter that attacks had re-started.

Turkish forces were launching "attacks on the eastern front of the Serêkaniyê," using the Kurdish name for the border town of Ras al-Ayn, which has been at the center of this conflict, he said.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF press office, said via Twitter that Turkish forces had been attacking the villages of Assadiya, Mishrafa and Manajer.

NBC News could not independently verify that hostilities had resumed.

Kurdish forces had moved some 18 miles from the border by Thursday, according to Russia's RIA news agency, which cited an SDF official.

Trump had paved the way for Erdoogan to invade northeastern Syria and faced widespread criticism at home and abroad for not doing more to protect the Kurds, thousands of whom have fled their homes. Around 1,000 U.S. troops have withdrawn from the region although a small number will remain.

The SDF were an ally against ISIS but Turkey considers the YPG, its biggest grouping, to be a terrorist group and a direct threat.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mark Esper criticized Turkey's "unwarranted" excursion into Syria.

Speaking at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels on Thursday, he said "Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation,"the Associated Press reported.