Home > Talking Kurdistan > WAR ON AFRIN: THE Fourth WEEK

We are now well over four weeks into the Turkish military assault on Afrin, Rojava (Western Kurdistan), one more week of massive airstrikes and use of heavy weaponry

“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…”

Turkish President and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a rally of his supporters in the Bursa Province.

 

They (UN) should monitor Afrin from here, because here civilians are being killed. Children and women are being massacred. There is a war against humanity. They should hear Afrin’s voice. We are facing a cultural and historic annihilation of life.” Afrin Ministry of Education Committee Co-chair Mihemed Reşit

 

We are now well over four weeks into the Turkish military assault on Afrin, Rojava (Western Kurdistan), one more week of massive airstrikes and use of heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, which, in addition to the airstrikes, continue to result in the wanton death and injury of innocent civilians.

 

As the 4th grim week of destruction started, various media reported heavy fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Turkish military (including the groups brought together under the label ‘Free Syrian Army’). By the end of the 4th week and according to the SDF, the fighting now continued on five fronts alongside an ongoing Turkish bombardment of the surrounding areas, as well as on the centre of Afrin city itself. (https://anfenglish.com/rojava/heavy-fighting-continues-in-afrin-25001)

 

Five kilometers on five fronts in four weeks

 

Nevertheless despite this escalating violence and the rising toll of civilian casualties at the end of the 4th grim week of destruction, the Kurdish News Agency, ANF described the outcome as: Five kilometers on five fronts in four weeks. (https://anfenglish.com/rojava/afrin-five-kilometers-on-five-fronts-in-four-weeks-24975)

 

“With the support of jihadist militia, the Turkish military wanted to conquer the entire canton of Afrin in northern Syria within three days. Apparently, the resistance of the fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was underestimated.

 

Although the second largest NATO army is also supported by Russia through the provision of airspace for the Turkish Air Force, the Turkish troops are still stuck in the border area. The combat zone is limited to an area of ​​five kilometers.

 

…The population continues to participate in the defense of Afrin, even though the Turkish attacks have already killed around 180 civilians.” (ANF)

 

In the previous week the Turkish President was forced to admit that the speed of the invasion was not going as planned and as he had promised the Turkish people: “Erdoğan was previously talking about completing the invasion in a short time, but has since backpedalled from this claim. Erdoğan has forgotten the “3 hours, 3 days, 1 week” times he cited before and is now saying, “Even though we regressed from 18 million square kilometers of land to 780.000 square kilometers, we praise and we are patient. It is not in my power to give an exact date. Right now we continue on with all the effort we can…” Erdoğan also gave information on the number of soldiers who died that is contradictory to his previous statements.”

(https://anfenglish.com/news/erdogan-backpedals-i-can-t-give-a-date-for-afrin-24988)

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): The fight continues in 37 villages on five fronts

 

“Fierce fighting is currently taking place in 37 villages on five fronts. In the 37 evacuated villages, the SDF are fighting in guerilla style. During the day the fighters leave the villages because of the air raids. At night they prevent Turkish troops from advancing and inflict heavy casualties on them. In Afrin there are a total of 336 villages.

 

The fight takes place in the following villages:

 

JINDIRES FRONT (Jindires: 23 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin)

 

1- Dêr Belût village

 

2- Mihemediyê village

 

3- Nasiriyah village

 

4- Dokan village

 

5- Safariye village

 

6- Haciskender village

 

7- Quşlah village

 

8- ÇemalBêl village

 

9- IşkanXerbî village

 

SHIYE FRONT (Shiyê: 21 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin)

 

1- Qerminliq village

 

2- ÇeqelaJêrîn village

 

3- ÇeqelaJorîn village

 

4- Souuldjouk village

 

5- XelîlKulku village

 

6- Memel Uşaxî village

 

7- Omer Uşaxî village

 

RAJO FRONT (northern front: 30 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin. Rajo southern front: 25 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin.)

 

1- TilKeşûr village

 

2- Adah Manli village

 

3- AlîBakki village

 

4- BîlalKuy village

 

BILBILE FRONT (Bilbilê: 24 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin)

 

1- Şengal village

 

2- Bakumasî village

 

3- Alîkar village

 

4- Zehran village

 

5- BalîKuy village

 

6- Kurni village

 

7- MehmûdWeyasî village

 

8- Hay Oxlo village

 

9- ŞêxUmasî village

 

10- Mersawa village

 

11- Heftaro village

 

12- EL şêxXerûz village

 

13- Omer Sîmo village

 

14- Salikanli village

 

15- Bilbilê district centre

 

 

SHERA FRONT (Shêra: 18 kilometers distance from the city of Afrin)

 

1- Dîkmetaş village

 

2- Qstelê village

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) estimate the number of casualties

 

“As many as 180 civilians who include women, children and elderly have lost their lives and 413 people got wounded because of the attacks.”  (https://anfenglish.com/rojava/turkish-army-targets-afrin-city-centre-update-24904)

 

“Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Press Office released the balance sheet of the invasion attacks by the Turkish army and allied gangs for 23 days. Accordingly, 862 members of the Turkish army and allied gangs were killed and 98 fighters fell as martyrs during this period.

 

The statement released by SDF Press Office (Monday 12 Feb):

 

1) Civilian martyrs: The aggressive enemies have targeted civilian settlements with all kind of heavy weaponry. As a result of attacks, 180 civilians, mostly women, children and elderly, have fallen as martyrs. Names of the civilian martyrs were documented at hospitals in Afrin.

 

2) Wounded civilians: During the ongoing attacks, 413 civilians including women and children have been wounded. Names of the wounded civilians were documented at hospitals in Afrin.

 

3) Martyrs of our military forces: During the resistance mounted against the attacking forces, 98 fighters of ours fell as martyrs. Our fighters were laid to rest in official ceremonies.

 

4) Casualties of the enemy: As a result of actions by our forces, 862 members of the Turkish army and allied gangs were killed. These figures were compiled from clarified casualties.

 

5) Airstrikes: The invading Turkish army carried out aerial bombardments on civilian settlements 668 times. In the mentioned bombardments, sub-structures, drinking water stations, schools and animal farms in central locations have been targeted.

 

6) Helicopter attacks: Enemy forces attacked the region with helicopters 16 times and all of these attacks targeted civilian settlements.

 

7) Attacks with heavy weaponry: The invading Turkish state and allied terrorist groups attacked the region with tanks and heavy weaponry 2,645 times.

 

8) Hand-to-hand fighting: Our forces engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with confirmed results 409 times. Results of 108 hand-to-hand fighting are not available.

 

9) Downing of helicopters: Since the day the attacks began, our forces downed one Cobra and one Sikorsky helicopter. In these helicopters, 11 Turkish soldiers including commanders were killed. Our forces also downed one drone and one Bayraktar type Strategic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

 

10) Tanks and panzers destroyed: Our forces destroyed 51 military vehicles that include tanks and panzers and damaged 15 others.

(https://anfenglish.com/kurdistan/sdf-862-soldiers-and-gang-members-killed-in-23-days-24894)

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

 

“Nearly a month into the offensive in Afrin, hundreds of thousands of Syrians…are hiding from bombs and airstrikes in caves and basements, trapped in the Kurdish enclave while Turkey and its allies are bogged down in fierce ground battles against formidable opponents.

 

…A slow-moving ground offensive, the assault on Afrin threatens to become a protracted standoff, deepening an already dire humanitarian situation. It could also prove costly for Turkey, diplomatically and militarily. So far, nearly 80 civilians in Afrin, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and 31 Turkish soldiers have been killed.

 

Fighting on six fronts, the Turkey-backed troops have met stiff resistance from the Kurdish People’s Defense Units, known as the YPG. They (Kurdish fighters) targeted Turkish tanks and bases and claimed to have downed at least one helicopter. Eleven soldiers were killed in one day last week. The weather and geography have also slowed down the offensive, with fog and rain grounding jets and obstructing ground advances as fighters grappled with the mountainous terrain.

 

The Observatory, which monitors in the war in Syria, estimates that Turkey has seized nearly 7 percent of district land along Afrin’s outer edges, including a strategic hill in the east, and Bulbul…in the north.

 

The YPG says 98 of its fighters have been killed. But the Observatory puts the toll at over 160, and estimates that over 200 Turkey-backed Syrian fighters have been killed.

 

The U.N., which has no access to Afrin, said it was “extremely difficult” to verify numbers of displaced, estimating in the first week of February that between 15,000 to 30,000 people were uprooted inside the enclave. Estimates for Afrin residents— who include displaced from other violence in Syria— range from 300,000 to 800,000.

 

Afrin’s Avrîn Hospital Chief Physician Civan Mihemed has announced that 170 civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed and 450 civilians have been wounded as a result of the attacks on Afrin.”

(http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=84942)

 

The JINHA News Agency also put the civilian casualties at 170 civilians dead and 450 civilians wounded…”According to data given by Chief Physician Civan Mihemed, last week’s civilian casualties were 154 people including 26 children and 17 women. Noting that they don’t have enough medicine at the hospital, Civan said, “We have a great responsibility at hospital. Since the beginning of the war, we have called on international organizations but they don’t want to hear our call for aid. We will not issue a call anymore. We try to provide the medicine with the support of our people living outside.”

(http://www.jinnews1.com/en/ALL-NEWS/content/view/76963)

 

Turkey’s perception of its own ‘progress’..?

 

Anadolu Agency, the state-run news agency of the Turkish government once more gave its update for week 4 :

 

“On Saturday, 17 Feb 2018, AKP Leader and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan spoke before his party’s Afyonkarahisar provincial congress and, mentioning the invasion attacks on Afrin, said: “We have martyrs, some 30 Mehmetcik (colloquial term for Turkish army soldiers) and 60 and then some from the FSA. Right now, they have covered 300 square km of area, Allah willing.”

 

“Since the beginning of the operation, 78 different strategic areas have been captured from the clutches of terrorists.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-army-fsa-liberate-2-more-villages-in-afrin/1067657)

 

…including Turkey’s belief that the invasion’s goal is “World Peace”

 

“Turkish group head of Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean countries said the Operation Olive Branch was not only important for Turkey’s national security but also for the world’s peace. “Turkey’s [red] lines are clear,” Erdogan Ozegen told journalists in parliament on Monday…We do not see any reason that they [Assad regime’s forces] clash with our soldiers…”…Ozegen’s remarks came after Assad regime’s state-run news agency SANA reported on Monday that the pro-Assad militia called “Popular Forces” was going to enter Afrin within a few hours. The terrorist organization YPG/PKK-Daesh is said to have held talks with the Syrian regime after more than 70 different strategic areas were liberated during Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch since its launch on Jan 20.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/afrin-operation-important-for-world-s-peace-turkish-mp/1067571)

 

The Daily Sabah, the Turkish pro-government daily published in Turkey. “Daily Sabah has been frequently called a propaganda outlet for the Turkish government and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Sabah)

 

The War on “Terror” Monday, February 13 figures…

 

“Since the beginning of the operation, Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army have captured 54 different strategic areas from terrorists, including a town center, three rural areas and 36 villages.

 

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said Wednesday that the number of “neutralized” terrorists since the beginning of the operation reached 1,485.” (https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2018/02/13/turkey-fsa-liberate-two-more-villages-in-syrias-afrin)

 

Other Reports

 

Firat News Agency: 27 schools targeted, 13 students killed, UNICEF contacted

 

“In the ongoing attacks since January 20, 27 school buildings have been targeted. There are 13 students among the people who lost their lives in the fighter jet bombings.

 

GATHERED DOCUMENTS WILL BE SUBMITTED TO THE UNICEF

 

(Afrin Ministry of Education Committee Co-chair Mihemed) Reşit stated that they are in contact with various institutions including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and that they will be submitting the documents they have gathered to the UNICEF: “We will be submitting documents on the schools that have been hit and students who have been killed. They should monitor Afrin from here, because here civilians are being killed. Children and women are being massacred. There is a war against humanity. They should hear Afrin’s voice. We are facing a cultural and historic annihilation of life.”

(https://anfenglish.com/kurdistan/27-schools-targeted-in-afrin-13-students-killed-24912)

 

Other News: Chlorine Gas Attack

 

“The Health Council of Afrin announced the results of the preliminary investigation of the Turkish army’s chemical attack on Erende village in Afrin…Speaking at the press conference in Avrin hospital Dr Xelil Sabri said they found traces of chlorine while treating the victims of the Turkish attack. Sabri also said that the tests on the soil samples from the area show a high concentration of chlorine gas. He called upon the international institutions to investigate the matter and said that they are ready to share all the findings.”

(https://anfenglish.com/rojava/health-council-finds-traces-of-chlorine-gas-after-turkish-attack-25002)

 

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has also alleged that Turkey used toxic gas in its attacks on Afrin. Hawar News Agency (ANHA) also has shared the names of the six people being treated at hospital.

 

“Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has reported that six people have been taken to hospital for treatment in Afrin due to toxic gas. SANA bases its reports on the statements of the Director of Avrîn Hospital Ciwan Mihemed and he reported that the civilians taken to the hospital with symptoms of suffocation. Dr. Ciwan Mehemed said the situation of four of the victims was stable while two others were in a critical condition.”

(http://www.jinnews1.com/en/ALL-NEWS/content/view/76967)

 

What lies ahead?

 

…Other than more death and killing and more innocent people wounded and maimed..?

 

As the second month of the assault was about to begin, a YPG representative Nuri Mahmud, told the Russian News Agency RIA Novosti:

 

“Senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd has announced that the Syrian Kurdish forces and government have reached an agreement for the Syrian army to enter Afrin to help halt Turkish attacks. He added that the army troops would be deployed along a number of border positions and were expected to arrive in the Afrin region within the next two days.

 

A source updated on the matter told RIA Novosti Thursday that Damascus and the Kurds had agreed that Syrian fighters would arrive at the Turkish border near Afrin in the days to come.

 

“We are urging the Syrian army to come to protect the Syrian borders from the Turkish occupation. Afrin is part of Syria, that’s why we have called on the army to stand on guard at the border,” Mahmud said.

 

According to the speaker, Syrian soldiers haven’t yet arrived.

 

We are calling on the army to help, because we’d love to preserve a unified Syria, as Turkey is seeking to annex the Syrian territories and make them part of its land, like it was with Aleksandretta sanjak [during the Ottoman Empire],” the Kurdish representative noted.

 

He pointed out that the protection of Syria is a top priority issue for Kurds, whereas they will engage in debates over the country’s federalization, which they are striving for, later.”

(https://sputniknews.com/news/201802181061785987-afrin-kurds-syria-army-unified)

 

So, we are awaiting developments here, including Turkey’s response (other than the usual threats, of course) if Syrian military personnel – reach the front lines in Afrin…

 

Quotes from the Week Passed:

 

Jinha News Agency:

Until now, many civilians have been killed by Turkish bombardments and most of killed civilians are children and women.” (http://www.jinnews1.com/en/ALL-NEWS/content/view/76668 Jin Newsa)

 

PYD Foreign Relations Spokesperson, Salih Muslim, in Geneva:

“Turkey is spilling our blood with the weapons you provide them. There are UN resolutions and rules of international law. They can’t use these weapons to massacre civilians. The UN Security Council says so. So, aren’t the people dying in Afrin civilians? People in other places are, but not the Kurds who lose their lives in Afrin? Why is there silence about this? You have a vision for democracy and institutions to that end. Turkey is killing civilians, why don’t you do something?”

(https://anfenglish.com/news/muslim-turkey-spills-our-blood-with-weapons-provided-by-the-west-24960)

 

David Romano, Rudaw:

In a two day visit to Ankara last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the end of the crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations:

“As soon as they get back to Washington, however, these U.S. officials suddenly seem to come back to reality. Perhaps they speak with people in the CIA or Pentagon or various think tanks, who remind them of facts that the Turks would rather sweep under their rugs: That Turkey itself aided and abetted the rise of ISIS, that Ankara is even now recruiting, training and deploying Jihadis to Afrin and other parts of Syria, that Mr. Erdogan in the last few years has almost single-handedly destroyed Turkey’s institutions and democratic safeguards, that Turkish officials blame the Americans for the failed coup of July 2016 and a host of other conspiracies, that Turkey’s new Islamist leaders habitually vilify and insult America, that these “allies” revel in increasingly radical Islamist rhetoric, that Turkey jails more journalists than any other country and that Turkey now buys key weapon systems from Russia rather than America. Someone in Washington will also remind Mr. Tillerson and company that under the PYD, Manbij, Afrin and other areas have been more stable, secure and Jihadi-free than anywhere else in Syria (at least until Turkey started bombing Afrin).”  (http://www.rudaw.net/english/opinion/17022018)

 

Turkish Defense Minister, Nurettin Canikli:

On Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said at the NATO ministerial session in Brussels that the Alliance had raised no objections to the ongoing Ankara’s Olive Branch military operation:

The NATO secretary general has always been one of the people, who has very positive stance on our struggle against external threats and I am grateful to him for it. There is no negative attitude of the secretary general to the Olive Branch. The NATO member states also accept our activities in Afrin understandingly. There is no talk about NATO’s demand to end the operation,” Canikli told Turkish reporters in Brussels, as quoted by the NTV broadcaster.”

(https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201802161061711056-syria-kurds-afrin-deployment-agreement/)

 

Deputy Syrian Minister, Fayssal Mikdad:

 “Afrin is an integral party of the Syrian Arab Republic…We affirm that the Syrian Arab Army defends every inch of the Syrian territory and Syria will return as unified as it has been throughout history,” he added, with respect to Afrin”.

(http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/middleeast/syria/140220184?ctl00_phMainContainer_phMain_ControlComments1_gvCommentsChangePage=2_5)

 

Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu:

“If they [the Syrians] are entering Afrin to protect YPG/PKK, nobody can stop the Turkish army.”

 

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov (Munich Security Conference, Feb. 17):

“It is necessary to think how to ensure equal right for Kurds in the present-day national borders rather than try to disturb this region, as our Western colleagues have been doing throughout the entire last century…”

(http://www.rudaw.net/english/world/170220182)

 

séamas carraher

 

Cover Image:

By, Kurdishstruggle, via flickr, The Women’s Protection Units

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

 

Updates:

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/turkey-syria-afrin-may-spark-a-turkish-kurdish-feud.html

https://ahvalnews.com/syria-turkey/syria-calls-kurds-arabs-unite-against-turkey-report

https://ahvalnews.com/afrin/syrian-regime-deploy-forces-afrin-following-deal-ypg-claims

http://www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/18022018

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/190220181 (including: Temporary base erected in Afrin ahead of reported deal between pro-Syrian government forces and YPG on February 19, 2018, Video: by Ruptly)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-afrin-assad-forces-kurdish-turkey-ypg-assad-soldiers-army-erdogan-fight-turkey-kurds-a8218061.html

 

Video:

Syria: Injured children swarm Afrin hospital as Turkey escalates shelling

Statement by Afrin Health Council on Turkish chemical attack on Afrin on 16 02 2018

 

 

 

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