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Clashes reported in Ras al-Ayn despite Syria ceasefire announcement

Sporadic clashes and shelling by Turkey-backed forces was reported in the northern Syria border town of Ras al-Ayn on Friday, October 18 despite a five-day ceasefire announced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

The Syria-based Rojava Information Center reported civilian injuries from shelling in the villages surrounding Ras al-Ayn, which Kurds call Serekaniye, and that Turkey-backed rebels had entered the village of Bab al-Khair (Bab-al-Xer) and were attacking Dawidye on Friday afternoon.

SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali tweeted that the rebels were using air and artillery fire to target Syrian Democratic Forces fighters and civilians, as well as the city’s hospital.

Later on Friday, the Syrian Democratic Council said in a statement that the bombing of Bab al-Khair “caused five martyrs from SDF and a number of civilians.”

The SDF’s political arm also called on the United Nations, the Arab League and the United States to send international observers to “maintain the temporary ceasefire” announced the previous day.

Syria mapFollowing meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Pence on Thursday announced a 120-hour ceasefire for northeast Syria to give the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a core part of the SDF, time to withdraw from the Syria-Turkey border. Ras al-Ayn and other cities along the border lie in a 30-km area of northern Syria that Turkey intends to assert control over and where it plans to resettle some two million Syrian refugees.

SDF commander General Mazlum Abdi said Thursday that the force would support the ceasefire, but only in the areas of current fighting between Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad, about 117 km to the west.

Turkey has said the agreement is not a ceasefire, describing it as a pause in operations.

The deal comes after more than a week of attacks by Turkey-backed forces fighting under the banner of the Syrian National Army after Ankara announced the start of “Operation Peace Spring” on October 9. The assault has been marked by reports of indiscriminate targeting of civilians and serious rights violations that the United Nations warned could constitute war crimes.

The Syrian Democratic Council called Thursday for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate wounded people and civilians from Ras al-Ayn and the Kurdish Red Crescent officially asked the International Committee of the Red Cross for help, citing a its limited capabilities in the city hospital and fears that wounded people will die without treatment.

More than 160,000 people have been displaced from the region and, as of Friday morning, more than 2,300 people had crossed into neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.


This post was updated on October 18

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