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US-backed force resuming offensive against Islamic State in east Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces had suspended their operations last month after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in country's north
The SDF said that the resumption followed 'intensive contacts' with the international coalition (File pic/AFP)

A Kurdish-led force backed by the United States has said it is resuming its offensive against the Islamic State group (IS) in eastern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised of joint Arab-Kurdish units, had announced a suspension to their operation on 31 October after Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria.

The SDF said the resumption followed "intensive contacts" with the international coalition and "strong diplomatic activity" to defuse the crisis.

"The leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces has decided to resume military operations against the Islamic State group, and work towards its definitive defeat," the militia said in an online statement.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, said the operation had not yet restarted but that SDF reinforcements had been sent to the area.

The leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces has decided to resume military operations against the Islamic State group, and work towards its definitive defeat

- SDF statement

Ankara views the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of the SDF, as a "terrorist" group linked to Kurdish rebels who have waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.

The Turkish government has long opposed the establishment of a de facto autonomous Kurdish area in northeastern Syria, fearing it could embolden separatists at home.

But its NATO ally Washington has backed the Kurdish fighters in the battle against IS.

After the SDF announced it was halting its operation, Washington said it was in communication with both sides to push for a de-escalation.

In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Turkish and US troops launched joint patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij earlier this month.

They also carried out patrols in Kurdish territories shelled by Turkey.

Backed by the international coalition, the SDF launched its assault on the IS enclave around the Euphrates valley town of Hajin on 10 September.

After making progress against the group, it suffered a major setback last month when IS fighters launched a series of deadly counter-attacks under the cover of sand storms. 

US coalition air strikes in recent weeks have inflicted heavy civilian casualties in areas controlled by IS, including 26 killed on Friday, including 14 children, the observatory reported.