Turkish-backed Syrian group to enter Ras-al-Ain after SDF withdrawal
Major Youssef Hammoud, a spokesperson for the Turkish-allied “Syrian National Army” (SNA) told The New Arab that the group had confirmed the full withdrawal of the SDF from its positions in Ras al-Ain. The town was the scene of heavy fighting between Turkish forces and the SNA on one side and the SDF on the other earlier this month.
Hammoud said that the SNA and the Turkish army would not enter Ras al-Ain until a five-day period specified by a ceasefire agreement negotiated between Turkey and the US had expired. The agreement was negotiated last Thursday and the five-day period is due to end on Tuesday afternoon.
There were reports on Sunday that the SDF had executed seven civilians in Ras al-Ain before their withdrawal.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Monday that if “the terrorists” – a reference to the SDF – did not withdraw from the entirety of a “safe zone” that Turkey wants to set up on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border “Operation Peace Spring would resume”.
Operation Peace Spring is the name that Turkey gave to its military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces. It aims to set up a “safe zone” 32 kilometres miles wide on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border. The ceasefire agreement negotiated by the US and Turkey includes the establishment of this zone.
However, on Sunday General Mazloum Kobani, the commander of the Kurdish-led SDF, told the website Waarmedia that Kurdish forces would not withdraw from the entirety of the proposed “safe zone” but only from the area between Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
Some of the areas where Turkey wants to set up the safe zone have a Kurdish majority population while others have an Arab majority.
Kobani also told the American channel NBC News that the US was responsible for “the biggest ethnic cleansing this century”. The Turkish operation against the SDF began after US forces withdrew from areas along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Approximately 275,000 people have fled as a result of the Turkish assault on north eastern Syria and dozens have been killed.
However, some Syrians who were previously displaced by Kurdish forces from Ras al-Ain to Turkey hope to return to their town after the SDF withdrawal.
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