Just over a week into the Turkish military assault on Rojava, conflicting reports give varying updates on the situation in the Afrin canton
“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish President and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party
Just over a week into the Turkish military – (with the participation of the Islamic factions of the Free Syrian Army) – assault on Rojava, conflicting reports give varying updates on the situation in the Afrin canton, in particular the progress of the Turkish war machine with its sophisticated technology focused on the Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) guerillas, but more importantly, on the casualty figures for these initial days of the ‘operation’.
One thing for sure: innocent civilians are dying…
Despite Turkish sources (and most international media) echoing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chant of a short sharp («justified») shock against the PKK/PYD/Kurdish «terrorists» (depressingly last week, Al Jazeera actually travelled with the Turkish Military the enormous distance from the border to Azaz, a Syrian town just across the Turkish border – already controlled by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army militias – to demonstrate the «success» of the Turkish war machine)…so it might not be incorrect to say that this ‘machine’, despite being one of the best equipped armies in the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance is, despite President Erdoğan’s wishes, bogged down in the difficult terrain of the Afrin countryside…
But still, one thing is certain: innocent civilians are dying…
Likewise, in this first week of war, despite early reports of numerous villages being taken by Turkish assaults, it would appear instead that a grim struggle is being waged in this beautiful countryside at the behest of cynical politicians terrified of losing their grip on power (both at home and within this tormented region) …as well as their authoritarian grip on the people from who it comes…
And, in the meantime, innocent civilians are dying…
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
SOHR produced a summary of actions and casualty figures from their sources in the area at the end of the first week of the assault:
«The “Olive Branch” Operation completes its first week in Afrin with 38 civilian casualties and about 120 fighters and soldiers who were killed during the aerial and ground shelling and the violent fighting…»
«The violent clashes continue between the forces of “Olive Branch” Operation, led by the Turkish forces with the participation of the rebel and Islamic factions against YPG and the Self-Defense Forces in places in Afrin area, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the clashes … where it rose to 13 at least, the number of fighters of the faction and the Turkish Forces who were killed today in clashes west of Afrin, including 3 soldiers of the Turkish forces and 2 of the bodies of the Turkish members have been withdrawn by YPG, while it rose to 6 at least, the number of fighters of YPG and the Self-Defense Forces who were killed in the same areas, which in turn increases to at least 53, the number of fighters of YPG and Self-Defense Forces, while it rose to at least 65 fighters of the rebel and Islamic factions of the “Olive Branch” Operation, including 7 fighters of the Turkish forces who were killed in the clashes that are taking place since the 20th of January 2018…»
«The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also monitored the continuation of artillery and missile shelling operations by the Turkish Forces, on places in Afrin area, which caused more material damage in the citizens’ property, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had documented the death of 33 at least, the number of citizens who have been killed since the “Olive Branch” Operation was launched on the 20th of January 2018… the number of citizens who were killed by the Turkish aerial, artillery and rocket shelling on several areas of Afrin located in the north-western countryside of Aleppo, and the number of casualties may increase because of the presence of a large number of injuries, some of them have seriously wounded.»
«…14 soldiers of the Turkish forces are killed and missed in the ongoing operation of the “Olive Branch” in Afrin area…»
Firat News Agency, (Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê – ANF), Casualties
53 – civilians dead…
134 – Civilians wounded…
43 – SDF / YPD fighters dead
308 – Turkish soldiers and Free Syrian Army members dead
ANF released a press statement from the Syrian Democratic Forces/YPD who said that «despite having technological advantages, NATO weapons and German tanks, Turkish army couldn’t make any advances against SDF fighters and suffered heavy losses.»
«… 308 Turkish soldiers and gang members, including four officers and one gang leader, were killed in the last seven days.
59 civilians were killed and 134 were wounded by the Turkish army and 43 SDF fighters lost their lives during the clashes.
The balance sheet of the Turkish attack against Afrin, Manbij, and Kobane as released by the SDF is as follows:
- 699 artillery and mortar attacks
- 191 airstrikes
- One helicopter attack
- Continuous reconnaissance planes’ activities
- 136 clashes with Turkish army and gangs
- 308 attackers (Turkish soldiers and gangs) were killed and two were wounded. These numbers include four Turkish officers and leader of Liwa Al Semarqen Ehmet Fayiz. SDF took possession of the bodies of four Turkish soldiers.
- Our forces confiscated several military equipment and documents of the Turkish army.
- Four “Akrep” type armored vehicles, 4 armored military vehicles, one truck with a heavy machine gun, two tanks, one bulldozer and an automobile were hit by SDF
- The results of seven clashes with the Turkish army couldn’t be clarified
- 43 SDF fighters were martyred. This includes three YPJ fighters.
- 53 civilians were killed and 134 civilians were wounded as a result of Turkish army’s attack.
Turkish supported gangs spontaneously attacked SDF military positions with heavy machine guns.
Turkish army attacked Zormixar village with heavy weapons three times.
Three civilians were killed as a result of Turkish army’s artillery and mortar attacks.»
Additional figures (from The Independent) for SDF/PYD dead from Afrin hospital: «…according to Dr Polat, he had received only four YPG fighters dead and two wounded on the first day of the Turkish assaults, another seven fighters and nine wounded later in the week.» (Robert Fisk)
Still: more death And dying …. more injured and wounded.
Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent for The Independent and the author of «the first Western media report from Afrin since the start of the Turkish offensive» visited the Afrin area, interviewing survivors of the so-called «surgical strikes» by the Turkish Air Force as well as visiting Afrin Hospital and speaking with Dr Jawan Palot, its director.
«Ironically, since the Turks are supposedly aiming at Kurdish YPG fighters, the very name of their military assault on Kurdish Syria, Operation Olive Branch, makes one’s gorge rise in the stone village of Mabeta, surrounded as it is by olive orchards…»
Mabata is where Turkish warplanes struck at 04:00 Friday morning, 26th January and where an estimated seven people from the same family lost their life in the bombardment.
The Dead Have Names, President Erdogan
«The list of the dead – 10 children, seven women, 17 men – is bleaker, for the hospital had not bothered to catalogue their wounds. They include infants.»
One-year old Wael al-Hussein, a refugee from the village of Jebbarah, killed on 21 January,
Six-year old Moussab al-Hussein from Idlib (clearly from another refugee family) on the same day,
60-year-old Fatima Mohamed from the village of Arabo was killed in Jendeeres on 23 January, and
Abdulkader Menam Hamo from Jamo was killed on 24 January.
Four members of the al-Khater family died when a Turkish shell hit their home in Maabatli: «Taha was 40 years old, his wife Amina the same age, Zakia was 17 and her bother Suliemann just 14.» (Safa, who is 19, survived…» but of course she is now an orphan.»…)
…And The Wounded
Mohamed Hussein, a 58-year-old Kurdish farmer, from Jendeeres, wounded in the head and eye after his home was bombed by a Turkish aircraft on the second night of the attack…
15-year old Dananda Sido, «terribly wounded in the legs and chest running in the street from a Turkish air attack in the Kurdish village of Adamo»…
Ahmad Kindy…who took his family out of the village when Turkey’s Olive Branch first cast its shadow over the land early on 21 January, but who unwisely returned and was hit in the back by shrapnel…
20-year old Kifah Moussa, «who was working in her family’s chicken farm at Maryameen when Turkish planes dropped a bomb on the building at midday, killing an entire family of eight people beside her? She was hit in the chest»…
The eighth-grade Kurdish schoolboy Mustafa Khaluf, also from Jendeeres, suffered severe leg wounds in the air strike…
Seven-year old Aya Nabo, with severe chest wounds…hit in the street on 22 January…
Three-year-old Hamida Brahim al-Hussein, from Maryameen, who was wounded in the head in the chicken farm attack in which Kifah Moussa was injured…
Two-year-old Hassan al-Hassan (wounded in the head)…
70-year-old Asia Sheikh Murad from Shiya – with head wounds on 23 January…
46-year-old Khaled Mohamed Ali Abdul Qadr with head wounds – again, for houses collapsed on their owners – in Maryameen…
Hamid Battal, aged 30, from Fkeiro and Ghengis Ahmad Khalil, 20, Midan Ekbes…
Sudqi Abdul Rahman, who is 47, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel at Ruzio-Jendeeres on 25 January…
75-year-old, Shamsa Moussa, is listed as receiving “multiple broken bones” in the village of Rajow on 23 January…
«We all know who did this…» says Robert Fisk. «The Turkish news agency Anadolu stated blandly that Turkish aircraft bombed more than 100 “targets” – including an “airfield” (mysteriously unnamed) – on the first day of the attacks. The operations supposedly targeted YPG “barracks, shelters, positions, weapons, vehicles and equipment”.
…And long after the politicians have stopped talking, the troops returned to their barracks, tanks and armoured vehicles parked, guns unloaded, there will still be families grieving their losses, whole families whose names will never be remembered, homes and villages and towns with only ghosts left…to rebuild them.
Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) (via Flickr.com)
Footage from Afrin’s Mabata district: Turkish warplanes bombed Afrin’s Mabata district at 04:00 Friday morning, 26 January. At least seven people from the same family lost their life in the bombardment.