DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian government forces started deploying Thursday in areas close to the Turkish border in the country’s northeast as part of an agreement reached between Russia and Turkey, state media reported.
News agency SANA said troops were deploying between the towns of Jawadiyeh and Malkiyeh, also known as Derik, while state-run TV said Syrian border guards will be positioned at six points near to the frontier.
The deployment is part of a cease-fire deal brokered by Moscow last month along much of the northeastern border that seeks to clear the area of the Kurdish fighters who were key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. Since the agreement was reached, Russia and Turkey began joint patrols along a narrower strip directly on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Turkey began a major military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria last month, capturing dozens of towns and villages.
SANA reported that since Turkey began its invasion of northern Syria on Oct. 9, some 19,776 families have been displaced from the northern countryside of Hasakeh province. It added that services are being provided to the displaced in 48 housing shelters.
Also Thursday President Bashar Assad suggested that a former British army officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer organization in Syria was killed in Turkey.
Assad suggested in an interview with Russia’s state-owned Russia 24 that “foreign agencies” could have been behind James Le Mesurier’s death, though he did not offer any evidence for the claim.
Turkish officials had said that the death of Le Mesurier in Istanbul this week is under investigation. Le Mesurier was the founder and CEO of May Day Rescue, which founded and trained the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, a group of local humanitarian volunteers.
He was 48 and had moved to Turkey with his wife four years ago, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency. Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in the Beyoglu district by worshippers on their way to a mosque, the agency reported.