Turks and Kurds accuse each other of violating truce in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan also threatened to "crush the heads" of Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria if they did not pull out by Tuesday night.

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Civilians flee the countryside from the Syrian town north-east of Ras al-Ain north-east of the Turkish border, west to the town of Tal Tamr, on October 19, 2019. The smoke behind them comes from hot tires that hindered the visibility of warplanes. DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP

Kurdish forces and Ankara accused each other on Saturday of violating a truce in northeastern Syria. Announced Thursday, the Washington-brokered truce agreement involves a withdrawal of Kurdish forces from a border region of Turkey, in exchange for stopping the Turkish offensive launched against them on 9 October.

Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-dominated alliance, on Saturday accused Turkey of sabotaging the deal by preventing the withdrawal of combatants, like civilians, from the besieged city of Ras al-Ain. . Mr. Abdi also stated that "The Turks continue to attack our forces" and brought to "Americans take full responsibility for these attacks as they do not put pressure on Turkey".

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He assured that the SDS were committed to withdrawing, as they say the agreement, a border area of ​​120 kilometers between Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, as soon as the Turks let them out of Ras al -ain.

Ankara immediately denied having blocked the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, rising against "False information to sabotage the Turkish-American agreement". The Turkish army has "Provided detailed information to the Americans (…) to facilitate the withdrawal" Kurdish forces, told AFP a senior Turkish official. Turkey has also called on Washington to use its " affecting " with the Kurdish forces to make their withdrawal "Without incidents".

Erdogan threatens to "crush the heads" of Kurdish fighters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously threatened to"Crush the heads" Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria if they did not withdraw by Tuesday night. "As soon as the 120-hour period expires, we will resume where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists' heads."Erdogan said in a speech, referring to the Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the SDS and considered as "Terrorists" by Ankara.

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Turkey has also accused the Kurdish forces of violating the truce, with "14 attacks" conducted «In the last 36 hours». "Turkish armed forces fully respect the agreement"promised the Turkish Ministry of Defense in a statement.

On the ground, Ras Al-Ain was relatively calm on Saturday, with sporadic shelling by Syrian protesters, while neighboring areas were targeted by heavy shelling, according to the OSDH. The NGO reported the evacuation by a medical convoy of 30 wounded from Ras al-Ain, as well as four people who died of their injuries.

300,000 displaced since 9 October

In a few days, Turkish forces and their Syrian counterparts conquered a border strip of nearly 120 km, from the city of Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain, a city where the Kurdish forces opposed this week a fierce resistance before the announcement of the cease-fire. Hundreds of people have been killed and 300,000 have been displaced since 9 October, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).

In addition to the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, the negotiated truce agreement provides for the establishment of a "Security zone" 32 km deep in Syrian territory, although the length of this band, which the Turkish president wants to extend over nearly 450 km, remains for the moment to be defined. The aim is to remove Kurdish fighters from the border, but also to install some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

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Kurdish forces, allied for several years in Washington in their fight against the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), accused the United States of having abandoned them when Donald Trump made the decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria . The SDS defeated the "Caliphate" last March, but dormant cells remain in eastern Syria. Abdi said the resumption of FDS anti-IS operations with Washington-led coalition forces in Deir Ezzor (east), three days after they announced their suspension.

Ankara's offensive on October 9 has opened a new front in Syria at war since 2011, and has reshuffled the cards in the north of the country. With the help of an agreement with the Kurdish forces, the Damascus regime has indeed returned to regions that have been elusive for years and Moscow has begun to fill the void left by the withdrawal of US forces.

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