In Syria, Kurdish fighters have evacuated the besieged city of Ras al-Ain

The Syrian Democratic Forces completed Sunday their withdrawal from the city surrounded by Turkish forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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A convoy of Kurdish fighters leave Sunday, October 20 the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain under the watch of Turkish military and their Syrian counterparts.
A convoy of Kurdish fighters leave Sunday, October 20 the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain under the watch of Turkish military and their Syrian counterparts. NAZEER AL-KHATIB / AFP

Kurdish fighters left Sunday, October 20, the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain besieged by Ankara forces and their Syrian counterparts. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), the SDS completed their withdrawal on Sunday. This is the first withdrawal since the implementation of the fragile truce negotiated by Washington and theoretically expires Tuesday, October 22.

A convoy carrying casualties, corpses, and YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters fled the northern Syrian town, according to an AFP correspondent on the ground. More than 50 vehicles, including ambulances, have left the city hospital, which serves as a demarcation line between the warring parties. The OSDH had previously reported that a total of 41 bodies – 28 SDF combatants and 13 civilians – were in the city's only hospital or in temporary cemeteries.

This is the first time that FDS fighters have left Ras Al-Ain. On Saturday, the Observatory reported an initial evacuation, a medical convoy of 30 wounded from the city, and four people who died of their injuries.

Ceasefire "holds up very well", says US defense minister

The convoy arrived at Tal Tamr, further south, where residents gathered in the main square welcomed youyou and slogans in support of the SDS, said an AFP correspondent. It was not immediately possible to confirm whether there would be a total withdrawal from the Kurdish side, or whether the departure of the fighters on Sunday was part of the implementation of the truce agreement. The Turkish Ministry of Defense, for its part, confirmed in a statement the withdrawal, saying that a "Convoy of 86 vehicles" left Ras Al-Ain "Towards Tal Tamr".

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The head of the SDF, Mazloum Abdi, said Saturday that his forces would withdraw, as stipulated by a truce agreement negotiated by Washington, as soon as Ankara forces let them out of Ras al-Ain. Announced Thursday, this cease-fire provides for the suspension for 120 hours of the offensive launched on October 9 by Turkey to allow a withdrawal of Kurdish fighters (YPG) border areas, and the establishment of a "Security zone" 32 km wide in Syrian territory along the border.

US President Donald Trump quoted Defense Minister Mark Esper as saying that "The ceasefire holds up very well". "There were minor skirmishes that ended quickly. Kurds are relocating to new areas »Mark Esper would have told Donald Trump.

A fragile truce that Kurds and Turks accuse each other of violating

This fragile truce is punctuated by sporadic fighting and bombardment in the west and north-west of Ras al-Ain, according to the OSDH. Since Thursday, Kurdish forces and Ankara have accused each other of violating the truce agreement. In the Tal Abyad area to the west, a Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.

The Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces was launched after an October 7 withdrawal of US border troops following an announcement by Donald Trump, paving the way for the operation. Also, on October 13, the United States announced the withdrawal of some 1,000 US troops deployed in the north and east of Syria at war.

On Sunday, more than 70 armored vehicles displaying an American flag and carrying military equipment crossed the international highway through the town of Tal Tamr, escorted by helicopters. According to the OSDH, the convoy withdrew from the Sarrine base near the town of Kobane and headed towards Hassaké province further east. "This is the largest US military base in the north and the fourth departure of US forces from a base in Syria"explains the director of the NGO, Rami Abdel Rahmane.

Read also Turks and Kurds accuse each other of violating truce in Syria

In recent days, the Americans have withdrawn from three other bases, including that of the key town of Minbej and another located as close to Kobane, near the Turkish border. From now on, all the bases in the provinces of Raqa and Aleppo "Are empty of any US military presence"said Mr. Abdel Rahman. The United States still maintains positions in the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Hassake, he said.

Since the launch of their offensive on October 9, Turkish forces and their Syrian counterparts have conquered a border strip of nearly 120 km between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain. The offensive killed 114 civilians and displaced another 300,000, according to the OSDH. The fighting and bombing also killed 256 FDS members against 196 pro-Ankara fighters. The offensive launched by Ankara has opened a new front in the Syrian conflict that has lasted since 2011, and has reshuffled the maps in the north of the country.

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