Damascus: Renewed clashes between Kurdish and Turkish forces erupted in northern Syria, as the Russia-backed Syrian government moved troops into the area.
Following a pact struck between Ankara and Moscow this week, Turkish forces suspended a military campaign against the Kurds, whom Ankara regards as a terrorist threat, on Wednesday, giving Kurdish fighters 150 hours to leave a 20-mile-deep belt that Turkey calls a safe zone, reports Efe news.
Nonetheless, since Thursday morning, Turkey and its local allies have been conducting a ground assault including artillery shelling on several border villages, forcing thousands of civilians to flee, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.
Up to 1,300 Syrian government forces and at least 160 vehicles arrived on Thursday to the area around the town of Kobani, located on the Turkish border, according to the Rojava Information Center, a media activist network.
Turkish drones attacked southeast of the border town of Ras al-Ain on Thursday and Friday, killing at least one SDF fighter, according to David Eubank, a US humanitarian worker volunteering with the Kurdish-led forces.
"These Turkish airstrikes have not stopped any day during this so-called ceasefire. Along with the Free Syrian Army, they attacked all day yesterday (Friday) from noon until night," Eubank said on Saturday, referring to Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.
Eight Turkish-backed troops and three SDF fighters were killed on Friday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitoring group.
Three nurses working with an ambulance team were killed by Turkish-backed rebels, and their bodies discovered in a water sewage system on Thursday, the Kurdish Red Crescent said.
Under the Turkey-Russia agreement, Russian and Syrian security forces would oversee the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, some of whom have already started to leave, from the safe zone and conduct joint patrols in parts of the area.
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it has sent around 300 more military police officers from Chechnya to the Syrian-Turkish border area.
Any effort by Turkey to push beyond that area would risk US sanctions, administration officials have said.