Kurdish fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have withdrawn from the besieged Syrian border city of Ras al-Ain on the first withdrawal when concluding a ceasefire agreement with Turkey, mediated by the United States.
SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said in a statement that the Kurdish-led group did not remain a fighter in Ras al-Ain after Sunday's evacuation. But Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, who took control of most of Ras al-Ain last week amid a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria that began on October 9, disputed this claim, saying that the Qur'an they are still rooted in nearly thirty percent of the area, according to Reuters.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense earlier said a convoy of approximately 86 vehicles carrying US-backed SDF fighters was leaving the border city in the direction of Tal Tamr, another city about 40 kilometers south.
The withdrawal of the SDF from Ras al-Ain would be the impetus for the ceasefire, which came into force Thursday night, but has since been shaken.
Armistice put Turkey's military operation on pause until later this week, b ut sporadic clashes erupted daily and there were also casualties, especially around Ras al-Ain, where The SDFs were surrounded by Turkish-led forces.
Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, said fighting for control of the city was "intense" before the ceasefire, adding that even after the armistice there were "reports of continuing sporadic clashes" in the area .
"So this [SDF withdrawal] should be a big relief for what we believe are at least a few hundred civilians who have been trapped in Ras al-Ain," Stratford said.
Erdogan calls on US to back agreement
US Presidential Administration Donald Trump negotiates a five-day ceasefire with Turkish President Recep Erdogan after severe criticism at home and abroad that Washington abandoned SDF and paved the way for the offensive Ankara, having abruptly removed its troops from northeast Syria.
Washington has labeled the security situation in northern Syria "insolvent" for its troops, and on Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed that approximately 1
Trump himself said this week that Washington has no stake in defending the SDF – a major US ally in the long-standing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Lebanon armed group ( ISIL or ISIS).
Ankara considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which form the backbone of the SDF, a "terrorist" group affiliated with the Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
Under the ceasefire agreement, Ankara agreed to give the Kurdish Ish for 120 hours to withdraw from the so-called "safe zone" that Erdogan wants to establish along the Syrian border with Turkey . The agreement did not specify the withdrawal area.
Erdogan on Sunday said he expects the US to keep its promises and not use tactics to delay the agreement reached between NATO allies, warning Turkey to resume its military operation if the deal goes down.
He had previously threatened that the offensive would resume if the download was not completed within the five-day time window set by the ceasefire agreement.
Al Jazeera, meanwhile, Stratford said that the Turkish disagreement between the Turkish leader and the UDF regarding the degree of withdrawal of the latter from the border region continues.
" President Erdogan wants this so-called" safe zone "to be 450 km long … and 30 km deep," Stratford says.
"But the SDF have said from the first day of this ceasefire that they will withdraw their forces from an area much smaller than that of Ras al-Ain to the wn of Tal Abyad," he added.
"So it remains to be seen what level of SDF withdrawal we will see in the rest of the areas between now and Tuesday night, when the ceasefire is over. "
Al Jazeera and News Agencies