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SDF forces withdraw from Ras al-Ayn on Syria-Turkey border

SDF will gradual withdraw from the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad southward to the M4 highway, Redur Xelil says

Syrian Democratic Forces fighters have left Ras al-Ayn following two days of evacuations of wounded civilians from the border city, a spokesperson for the force said.

The last batch of SDF fighters finished their deployment on Sunday, October 20, SDF spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl told The Defense Post.

“Now we don’t have any forces inside the city,” he said. “There will be a gradual withdrawal of the forces from the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad southward to the M4 highway.”

Two convoys of humanitarian workers from the Kurdish Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and an independent group called the Free Burma Rangers have evacuated dozens of wounded and dead civilians and SDF fighters from Ras al-Ayn over the weekend.

Xelil told the Associated Press on Saturday that the SDF would begin to pull back if the evacuation was complete by Sunday.

The withdrawal of SDF forces is part of a ceasefire agreement announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. SDF commander General Mazlum Abdi said the force would abide by the ceasefire, but the SDF has accused Turkey of various violations throughout the weekend, mostly in Ras al-Ayn.

“Communication continues with the American side at the highest levels for the protection of civilians from the Turkish state’s violence and the armed factions belonging to it,” Xelil said Sunday.

“The Americans assured that they have firm guarantees from the Turkish side to protect the civilians and their security and safety, but we don’t trust the Turkish side and we will continue observing the situation closely.”

The 120-km (75 mile) area between Ras al-Ayn, also called Serekaniye, and Tal Abyad is part of a stretch of Syrian territory where Turkey wants to settle up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.

Ankara launched Operation Peace Spring on October 9 to push the SDF and its predominately-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) south in order to occupy the 30-km-wide buffer area along the border.

More than 165,000 people have been displaced by Turkey’s incursion into northeast Syria, and the Kurdish Red Crescent says 20 people have been killed since the ceasefire announcement.

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