Iraq’s PMU enters Syrian villages in spite of Kurdish warning

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters gather in the town of Tabqa, after SDF captured it from ISIS militants this week, Syria May 12, 2017.

:: Iraq’s mostly Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary forces known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have entered Syrian villages, leading to the flight of hundreds of local families, who feared possible retaliation from Syrian militias on ground, Al, the Arabic language website for Al Arabiya News Channel, reported on Friday.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has mainly Kurdish fighters, said it will never accept the presence of Iranian affiliates and they will never under any circumstances act as a bridge between PMU and the Tehran-backed Syrian regime.

PMU had made it clear previously that it wanted to enter Syria. This has led to the warning by SDF to the Iraqi paramilitary forces if the latter enters areas under its control, a Kurdish leader recently told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview.

Al reported that PMU moved into the villages of Al-Bawardi and Qusayba Al-Souritin in the countryside of the far northeastern Syrian Al-Hasakah governorate.

In January, ISIS attacked the southern countryside of Hasakah in a bid to regain positions that were taken by the Kurdish forces in February 2016.

While these villages are now free from ISIS control after the militant group’s withdrawal, PMU entering Kurdish-controlled areas might escalate conflict again.

PMU advancing into Syrian territory comes after its recent stationing at the Iraqi side of Umm Ghrais village, which is seen as an extension of Iran’s strategy linking both Iraq and Syria.

PMU is using homes of the approximately 200 fleeing families in Al-Hasakah villages as launchpad for their operations.

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