The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported on Friday morning that Turkish forces violated the five-day ceasefire agreement announced on Thursday afternoon almost immediately, as Turkish-allied ground forces continued to attack the town of Ras al-Ain with Turkish air and artillery support.
“Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements, and the hospital in Serekaniye/Ras al-Ain,” said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali, using both the Kurdish and Arabic names of the town.
The SDF said five of its fighters and several civilians were injured by a Turkish airstrike on a village near Ras al-Ain, which has been under attack by Turkish-allied Syrian militia ground forces since early this week.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted 7 civilians killed plus at least 21 injured by Turkish airstrikes and warned 38 injured people are trapped in an area under siege by Turkish proxies.
Organizers of a civilian relief convoy attempting to reach Ras al-Ain told Kurdistan24 News the attacking forces have cut off access to the town. They reported 30 injuries in the area from artillery fired by either the Turks or their allies from the Free Syrian Army.
Reuters journalists positioned near the Turkey-Syria border said they could hear machine-gun fire and artillery explosions from the vicinity of Ras al-Ain and saw plumes of smoke near the town, although they added the “sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.”
CBS News reported allegations from Kurdish leaders that the Turks are using white phosphorus weapons against Kurdish civilians, although a chemical weapons expert consulted by CBS pointed out that virtually every faction in the gruesome Syrian civil war has white phosphorus, including the Syrian army, so it is difficult to determine who should be held accountable for any given deployment.
The international chemical weapons watchdog OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) is reportedly investigating allegations of chemical weapons use.
The SDF publicly accepted the terms of the ceasefire agreement, which they said they were actively involved in negotiating.
“As you know, President Trump has himself worked on this. He sent a letter to Erdogan, and finally the American vice-president went and met with them. We were part of this whole process, and we can say that we were connected to the American delegation which traveled to Turkey,” SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazlum Abdi said on Thursday.
“Whatever we can do as the SDF to make this ceasefire work, we will do. America has led this ceasefire, and is responsible for ensuring that it is carried out in the correct way,” he said.
Abdi added that people who live in the Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad areas covered by the agreement “must be able to return to their own homes and land,” refuting what many see as Turkish plans to ethnically cleanse the region of Kurds. The ostensible Turkish demand is for armed Syrian militia groups Turkey sees as allied with the separatist PKK party to vacate the “safe zone” buffer area.
Abdi described the ceasefire agreement as the product of a “heroic struggle carried out by the soldiers of the SDF, Kurds, Arabs, Assyrian Christians and others, together,” along with help from the outside world.
“Everybody, every state, apart from the client states of Turkey, apart from them, all the states of the world created pressure on Turkey so this ceasefire could be set up. As a result of this great pressure, and the struggle of our people and our soldiers, this ceasefire was achieved,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Friday that allegations of cease-fire violations were “speculation” and “disinformation.”
“I don’t know where you’re getting your news from. According to the news I received from my defense minister, there is no question of clashes,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that his defense ministry believes the Kurdish militia it regards as “terrorists” have begun withdrawing from the region as desired.
“From this moment on, a 120-process is running. Within this 120-hour process, the YPG, the terrorist organization that you know, will leave the area, especially the region that we have designated as a safe zone,” he insisted.
“As you know, I will meet with President Putin on Tuesday. I consider this meeting to be a separate element of this process. With these meetings, with Peace Spring, if God permits, we will bring peace to the region,” Erdogan said, alluding to his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin near the end of the cease-fire period.
President Donald Trump said late on Friday morning that he spoke with Erdogan about the alleged cease-fire violations.
“He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated. He very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Too bad there wasn’t this thinking years ago,” Trump mused. “Instead, it was always held together with very weak Band-aids and in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides and a really good chance for success.”
Trump added that the has “just been notified that some European nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the ISIS fighters that came from their nations.”
“This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them,” he remarked. “Anyway, big progress being made!”