Kurdish fighters pull out of besieged Syrian town - RTHK
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Kurdish fighters pull out of besieged Syrian town

2019-10-21 HKT 04:36
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  • Smoke billows above the Kurdish-held town of Ras al-Ain. Photo: AP
    Smoke billows above the Kurdish-held town of Ras al-Ain. Photo: AP
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fully withdrew from a Turkish-encircled town in northern Syria on Sunday, in what appeared to be the start of a wider pullout under a ceasefire deal.

Ankara launched a cross-border attack against Syria's Kurds on October 9 after the United States announced a military pullout from the war-torn country's north.

A US-brokered ceasefire was announced late on Thursday, giving Kurdish forces until Tuesday evening to withdraw from a buffer area Ankara wants to create on Syrian territory along its southern frontier.

The deal requires the SDF – the de facto army of Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria – to pull out of the border zone extending 32 kilometres deep into Syrian territory, the length of which is not clear.

The Kurds have agreed to withdraw from an Arab-majority stretch of border from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain, around 120 kilometres.

But Turkey ultimately wants a much longer "safe zone" to stretch 440 kilometres along the frontier.

On Saturday, SDF commander Mazloum Abdi said Kurdish forces would withdraw from the 120-kilometre zone as soon as they were allowed out of Ras al-Ain, which was besieged by Turkey's troops and Syrian proxies.

The SDF later said its fighters had completely evacuated the border town as part of the truce agreement, after Turkey's defence ministry confirmed they were departing.

A reporter on the ground saw at least 50 vehicles, including ambulances, leaving the town hospital, from which flames erupted shortly after their departure. (AFP)