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Kurds fully withdraw from besieged Syria border town

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Damascus | October 21, 2019 4:11:35 AM IST
Kurdish fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday fully withdrew from the besieged Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain in the first pullback under a ceasefire deal with Turkey brokered by the United States.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said in a statement cited by Al Jazeera that the Kurdish-led group had no fighters left in Ras al-Ain following Sunday's evacuation.

Turkey's defence ministry had earlier confirmed that a convoy of approximately 86 vehicles carrying the US-backed SDF fighters departed the border town in the direction of Tal Tamr, another town located about 40 kilometres (24 miles) south.

The Kurdish withdrawal from Ras al-Ain will be a boost to the ceasefire, which came into effect on Thursday evening, but has been shaky ever since.

The truce put Turkey's military operation on "pause" until later this week, but sporadic clashes have erupted daily and there have also been occasional shelling, particularly around Ras al-Ain, where the SDF have been encircled by Turkish-led forces.

The US negotiated the five-day ceasefire with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wherein, Ankara agreed to give Kurdish forces 120 hours to withdraw from a so-called "safe zone" that Erdogan wants to establish along Syria's border with Turkey. The agreement, however, did not specify the area of the pullback.

Ankara considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which forms the backbone of the SDF, a "terrorist" group linked to Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.

The SDF was the US's main ground ally in the years-long campaign against the Islamic State. (ANI)

 
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