Turkey, Kurds trade charges as Syria truce takes hold

Nazeer al Khatib –

Turkish and Kurdish leaders accused each other of violating a US-brokered truce in northeastern Syria even as it appeared to be taking hold on its second day on Saturday. The deal announced late on Thursday is intended to halt a Turkish-led offensive against Kurdish forces launched on October 9, on condition they pull out of a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border.
The offensive has killed dozens of civilians, mainly on the Kurdish side, and prompted hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the latest humanitarian crisis of Syria’s eight-year civil war.
On Saturday, Turkey accused Kurdish forces of violating the truce.
“The Turkish armed forces fully abide by the agreement” reached on Thursday with the United States, the defence ministry said in a statement. “Despite this, terrorists… carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours,” it said, using its usual term for Kurdish fighters.
The ministry said 12 of the attacks came in the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain, one in Tal Abyad and another in the Tal Tamr area. Heavy weapons fell silent in Ras al-Ain after sporadic clashes on Friday evening, an AFP correspondent reported.
Turkish troops and its Syrian rebel proxies seized part of the town on Thursday, hitting a hospital.
Turkey wants to push Kurdish fighters away from its southern border by establishing a 30 km deep “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the frontier. A Britain-based war monitor said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had yet to start pulling back on Saturday. “The SDF have not withdrawn until now from any point,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
SDF commander Redur Khalil said deadly bombardments by Turkey’s forces on Friday were a major breach of the truce and called on Washington to ensure Ankara honoured its side of the deal.
On Friday, Turkish air strikes and mortar fire by allied Syrian fighters killed 14 civilians in and around the village of Bab al-Kheir, the Observatory said.
“The Turkish side is not committing to the ceasefire and is not allowing the opening of a security corridor to evacuate the wounded and besieged civilians from Ras al-Ain,” Khalil said.
“The US side bears responsibility for the non-compliance as it is the guarantor and mediator of the ceasefire.”
The Observatory said at least 32 wounded people in Ras al-Ain, mostly fighters, were in need of immediate treatment on Saturday but an evacuation convoy could not reach them. Six SDF fighters had died of their wounds during the monring, the monitor added. The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies have so far seized around 120 km of territory along the Syrian-Turkish border. — AFP