YPG continues pullout from Syria safe zone, some militants disguise as civilians: sources

MUSTAFA KIRIKÇIOĞLU @MKirikcioglu
ANKARA
Published 21.10.2019 13:03
Updated 21.10.2019 16:58

Some 125 trucks carrying PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists have already left the 120-kilometer wide area between the northern Syrian towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad, sources from Turkey's Defense Ministry said Monday, although some terrorists disguised as civilians were found to have stayed in the region.

"We expect departures will continue today and tomorrow," the sources stated.

Most of the terrorists that left the area were found to have departed for al-Hasakah. "We are monitoring every step of the terrorists with unmanned aerial vehicles," the sources said.

"We detected that some YPG militants had disguised themselves as civilians and changed their appearance to stay in the area," they added.

Turkish and U.S. delegations agreed on Thursday that Turkey will pause its counterterrorism operation in northern Syria for five days, during which time the YPG terrorists must withdraw from the proposed safe zone area.

Regarding the retrieval of U.S. weapons, the sources indicated that they closely follow the process and in cooperation with their U.S. counterparts. The agreement between Ankara and Washington does not only include the withdrawal of YPG terrorists but also having their weapons seized and their fortifications and positions dismantled.

"The U.S. delivered weapons that could equip a 30,000-35,000 force," the sources said.

Since former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, 30,000 truckloads of weapons were delivered by Washington to the terrorist group under the framework of fighting Daesh, despite the staunch opposition of Ankara, which has suggested that one terrorist group cannot be used against another.

The security forces also stressed that there are more complex tunnels in Tal Abyad than those in Afrin, "probably because the area is close to Lafarge's cement plant located in Ain Issa."

The YPG reportedly began the construction of these tunnels a couple of years ago after they took control of the plant from Daesh in February 2015 with the help of a U.S.-led coalition. Regarding the tunnels, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week in Parliament that: "We are seeing 90-kilometer-long tunnels in northern Syria. How do they build these tunnels? Where is the cement to construct them coming from?"

Since Thursday, when Turkey and the U.S. agreed to the 120-hour pause in Turkey's Syria operation in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the planned safe zone, the terror group carried out 36 violations such as harassment fire in northern Syria, Lt. Cmdr. Nadide Şebnem Aktop, a spokeswoman for the ministry, told reporters in the capital Ankara.

On Oct. 17, Erdoğan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also agreed on Turkey having a 32-kilometer safe zone south of the Turkish border in Syria.

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.

Aktop said Turkish security forces have killed 765 YPG terrorists so far during the anti-terror operation east of the Euphrates to purge the region of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot YPG.

Turkey's Syria operation has liberated a total of 111 settlements in northern Syria so far, Aktop said, adding that a 1,500-square-kilometer-wide area was taken under control.

She also reiterated that Turkish security forces have not used any chemical weapons or ammunition, which are banned by international law and treaties.

Aktop also said Operation Peace Spring has caused no civilian casualties in Syria.

Turkey is closely monitoring the YPG withdrawal from the region under the 120-hour pause agreement, she added. Terrorists completely abandoned city centers in Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. Some remaining terrorists in rural areas are also expected to leave these regions before the 120-hour period is completed.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. Meanwhile, the Turkish vice president said yesterday that the safe zone in northern Syria will allow nearly 2 million Syrian refugees to return to their homes. Speaking at Yıldız Teknik University in Istanbul, Vice President Fuat Oktay said Turkey cleared 65 settlements including Syria's Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ayn city centers of terrorists. He noted that his country provides all basic services such as health, education, housing, roads, electricity and water to Syrian people in the safe zone without any discrimination and expecting nothing in return.

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