Published: Sun, October 20, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Turkish-backed forces, Kurds clash despite Syria cease-fire

Turkish-backed forces, Kurds clash despite Syria cease-fire

Esper also confirmed US servicemembers will leave that region of Syria, though he vowed to continue dialogue with Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces to ensure the accord reached Thursday remains in place for the agreed to five days.

"The Turks are preventing the withdrawal from the Ras al-Ain area, preventing the exit of our forces, the wounded and civilians", Mazloum Abdi, head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a phone interview. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human puts the death toll higher, saying 86 people have been killed, including 21 children.

The deal concerned only a 120-kilometre area from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain in northern Syria and as far south as the M4 highway - a key east-west artery that links the Kurdish heartland in the northeast with Syria's second city Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast beyond.

The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) was "still shooting all through the night", Eubank said.

Some demonstrators carried flags of the Syrian Kurdish force known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey is trying to push back. Hundreds dead. Credible reports of war crimes.

The worldwide chemical weapons watchdog OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) is reportedly investigating allegations of chemical weapons use.

The SDF publicly accepted the terms of the ceasefire agreement, which they said they were actively involved in negotiating. He sent a letter to Erdogan, and finally the American vice-president went and met with them.

A U.S. defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States would continue aerial surveillance in northeastern Syria to monitor prisons holding alleged Daesh militants.

"Whatever we can do as the SDF to make this ceasefire work, we will do".

"The cause is America's weak position and the withdrawal of the American forces", he said.

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Turkish forces and their proxies had captured 196 IS prisoners in Syria on Friday, and they were being locked in a "safe place" in Syria.

But on Saturday both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire.

During an October 5 call, Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan he would remove US troops from the Kurdish-controlled border area on the Turkish-Syrian border.

"I also don't want to give you any false hope".

But Daniel Davis, a retired lieutenant-colonel who now works at a think tank called Defense Priorities, warned that Turkey may not be able to easily sweep through Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria. "If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over".

But Mr Erdogan said on Saturday he would discuss the Syrian deployment in northern Syria in his planned talks with Putin during a visit to Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.

"I think the USA lost some credibility in the past week because of [policy] zig-zags and the letter Trump sent to Erdogan", Akyol said, referring to a letter released by the White House this week in order to show the president's tough stance with Turkey.

"He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated".

Esper said he is looking forward to meeting his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, next week in Brussels to "reinforce the importance of ensuring a lasting political solution to the situation in Syria". "Instead, it was always held together with very weak Band-aids and in an artificial manner". The Kurds were allied with the the fight against Islamic State but Ankara regards them as a terrorist threat.

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