AMMAN (Reuters) – Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels have now encircled two border towns in northeast Syria held by the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces after a ground offensive that seized several villages around them, a spokesman for the rebels said on Thursday.

Major Youssef Hamoud said the two towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad were now encircled after the Turkish army aided by fighters of the Syrian opposition group known as the National Army seized several villages around them.

The two towns where Arab tribes are the majority of its inhabitants are a main goal of the Turkish military campaign to oust Kurdish-led fighters who control its area and where Ankara says it wants to set up a so-called safe zone.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Chris Reese