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Syrian Kurds accuse Turkey of violating ceasefire

SDF accuses Turkish army and its local allies of continued military operations in northern Syria
Turkish tanks on the border with Syria where Kurdish forces say that a ceasefire signed on Tuesday has been violated (Reuters)

Syrian Kurdish fighters have accused Turkey and its allies of continuing military operations in northern Syria despite a truce reached on Tuesday, and a peace plan announced by Russia. 

The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, called for the ceasefire's backers to "rein in the Turks".

"In spite of the Turks announcement of the end of military operations, they and their jihadists continue to violate and launch attacks on the eastern front of the Serekaniye," Abdi tweeted, using the Kurdish name for border town Ras al-Ain. 

Turkey initially agreed with the US last week to pause its operations against the Kurdish-led Peoples Protection Units (YPG), the leading faction in the US-backed SDF.

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Ankara confirmed that it would not renew its offensive on Tuesday after discussions with Russia.

Later on Thursday, the UN's Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said the ceasefire deal was still intact. 

"It seems that by and large that the ceasefire is holding. That of course doesn't mean that there will not be challenges," Pedersen told Reuters news agency. 

Pedersen also said he had recieved reports that some of the 160,000 people who fled the incursion are starting to return to their homes.

Despite the UN's report, the SDF has claimed that Turkey and some Syrian rebel groups it backs have continued to violate the ceasefire. 

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the Turkish army has attacked three villages in northern Syria. 

"Turkish army have been attacking villages of Assadiya, Mishrafa and Manajer with a large number of mercenaries and all kinds of heavy weapons despite the truce.

"SDF will exercise its right to legitimate self defense and we are not responsible for the violation of the agreement," Bali tweeted. 

The ceasefire was praised by US President Donald Trump, who has swung between various positions on the Turkish offensive, initially allowing it to go ahead by withdrawing US forces from the area, where they backed the SDF, then reacting to heavy criticism by imposing sanctions on Turkey. 

Under the plan agreed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin, Syrian Kurdish forces are to withdraw more than 30 kilometres from the Turkish border.

Russia's RIA news agency, quoting an SDF official, said the Kurdish fighters had already withdrawn to 32km away from the border. 

The news agency also reported that Russian military police are now patrolling the Syrian border with Turkey. 

The human rights group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had pulled out of some areas at the eastern end of the border on Thursday.

On Wednesday Trump lifted the punitive sanctions he had placed on Turkey in response to its offensive, saying "by getting that ceasefire to stick, we've done something that's very, very special".

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