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

We are now well over three weeks into the Turkish military assault on Afrin – “home to the last of the untouched Yazidi communities (some 25,000 people)…also…home to many of the internally displaced refugees in Syria

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

 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish President, to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) during a rally of his supporters in the Bursa Province.

 

“There have been reports of civilians including children being killed and injured as a result of airstrikes and ground-based strikes,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

 

The Turkish state would not dare to invade Afrin if both the major powers– US and Russia– did not give such an offensive the green light.” Cihad Hammy, TheRegion.

 

We are now well over three weeks into the Turkish military assault on Afrin – “home to the last of the untouched Yazidi communities (some 25,000 people)…also…home to many of the internally displaced refugees in Syria” (http://news.infoshop.org/middle-east/afrin-resists-turkey-for-17th-day/)…  one more week of this violent conflict which continues to result in the death and maiming of innocent civilians and the wanton destruction of a community struggling to rebuild after the terror of the short-lived ‘Islamic State’.

 

As the 4th grim week of destruction started, Murat Karayilan, a member of the PKK’s Executive Council, in an interview with ANF Turkish Service said:

 

“The fact is, with Erdoğan’s statement they planned to finish the invasion of Afrin within one week. These plans are all foiled. The Turkish army and Al-Qaeda forces didn’t make any advances although 19 days have passed since the start of the operation. Their most distant encroachment is about 5 kilometres deep. In Burseya mountain they only advanced about 150 metres. And after that they said ‘we are entering Afrin’, ‘not much left’. But this is not true.”

 

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) also estimates the casualties inflicted to date on Turkey’s proxy force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) stands at 350 dead and the Turkish army have lost 200 dead. The estimate of the Kurdish YPG killed, Murat Karayilan says: “The losses of the YPG have not even reached 100.”

 

He also commented on Turkey’s ‘progress’ at this point in the war:

“The Turkish state couldn’t enter Afrin and it’s already talking about entering Manbij. If they are that brave first enter Afrin then talk about Manbij. This army hasn’t invaded Afrin. What they say about Manbij is nothing more than a bluff…

The Erdoğan regime and the Turkish press are trying to cover up the Turkish army’s failure in Afrin. They try to hide this fact from Turkish society by using all they have. The fact is the Turkish army and its Al-Qaeda allies have failed. They didn’t succeed by any means.” (https://anfenglish.com/features/pkk-s-karayilan-Erdoğan-and-al-qaeda-forces-failed-in-afrin-24829)

 

Gissur “Gilgo” Simonarson @GissiSim, February 7, tweeted:

“18 days into “Operation Olive Branch”, Turkish military and proxies have not made it 5km into Afrin.” (https://twitter.com/wsmireland)

 

One thing, however, despite the inability of the Turkish military to make significant progress, its bombardment of the region from both air (“a whopping 72 Turkish aircraft bombed the canton in the opening salvo of the operation according to Turkish press reports” Rudaw) and artillery continues, despite a temporary pause in airstrikes after a Russian jet was shot down over Idlib on Saturday, 3 February. The aerial bombardments resumed Thursday night (8 February) at 10 pm and continued through Friday evening, the Kurdish YPG in Afrin reported…. and innocent civilians continue to die.

 

“The infrastructure is also systematically targeted, such as drinking water pumping stations, schools, mosques, dams, roads, food depots and health centers. Border villages have been destroyed and more than 60,000 civilians have been displaced due to “continuous shelling,” Hevi Mustafa, co-chair of the executive council of the Afrin administration (Rudaw).

 

Despite the limits placed on news getting out of the besieged region, it is clear that village after village stretching from the Turkish border to the city of Afrin itself continues to be bombed or hit with artillery or rocket fire and in many of these villages a bitter engagement between protagonists appears to move back and forth. Despite this lack of clarity, Murat Karayilan’s analysis of President Erdoğan’s aspirations – a week after he claimed to his supporters at the AKP Congress in Biliuts (Saturday 3rd February, which was the beginning of Week 3 of the ‘Campaign’): “We are advancing into Afrin [city center]. We are close…” – would appear to be correct.

 

Instead, it appears now that the Turkish war machine is relying on its bombing campaign, making the most of its NATO-membership-advanced technology; which should make one wonder how the majority of European citizens would feel knowing their tax euros were being channeled into bombing Kurdish and Arab farmers and their families into the ground, similar to Mr. Kissinger’s secret war of terror against the Vietnamese and Cambodian people not 50 years ago?

 

Anadolu Agency, the state-run news agency of the Turkish government once more gave its update for week 3:

 

“At least 1,266 PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin, according to Turkish General Staff on Sunday.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/pyd-pkk-use-civilians-to-attack-turkish-troops-in-syria/1060436)

 

As to Turkey’s perception of its own ‘progress’?

 

“Since the beginning of the operation, 49 different strategic areas have been captured from the clutches of terrorists, among them a town center, 32 villages, three rural areas and 13 hills.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-military-free-syrian-army-free-another-village/1060411)

 

Turkey also admitted to the loss of one of the two helicopters that the YPG announced had been shot down in Afrin : “A while ago, one helicopter was shot down. Of course, all these things will happen. We are in a war…We will of course make them [terrorists] pay a heavy price for these…” President Erdoğan said.

 

Turkey also accused the YPG of using civilians in the resistance:  “The PYD/PKK terrorists used civilians, including children to attack Turkish soldiers…” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/pyd-pkk-use-civilians-to-attack-turkish-troops-in-syria/1060436)

 

Meanwhile Turkish jets continue to bomb: “terror targets in northwestern Syria within the range of southern Turkish border districts of Hatay”, while Turkish artillery units “hit PYD/PKK forces in rural western Afrin within range and sight of Hatay’s Reyhanli, Hassa and Kirikhan districts.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-forces-hit-pyd-pkk-targets-in-northern-syria/1060187)

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Statement on Wednesday 7th of February painting a picture of engagements in the previous 24 hours.

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are the official defense forces of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria / Rojava. The press center of the SDF released a detailed statement on the clashes between SDF fighters and the Turkish army in Afrin canton.

 

The statement read as follows:

 

MEYDANKE

The invader Turkish army bombed homes and the school building in Meydanke village in the Shera district at 03h00 on Tuesday.

The water treatment plant, which provides clean water for the canton, was bombed by the Turkish army. The plant was repaired by engineers.

 

JINDIRES

SDF forces destroyed a military vehicle near Hemame village at 03h00.

The invasion Turkish army bombed the area and the Martyr Seydo Cemetery on Wednesday morning.

The Turkish army and its gangs were targeted and hit by SDF forces.

 

RAJO

The villages of Rajo were bombed by Turkish artillery until the early hours of Wednesday. Civilian areas were hit during the bombardment.

The Turkish army and its gangs launched an attempt to advance on Bablika village and as SDF forces responded, the invasion army had to retreat to its original position.

 

SHARAWA

The villages of Sharawa were attacked by the invasion Turkish army at 10h00 on Wednesday morning.

 

BILBILE

After suffering heavy losses, the Turkish army and its gangs are attacking the Sheikhorze village since Tuesday evening. Heavy fighting erupted as SDF forces responded and dozens of casualties were reported on the Turkish side.

During the Turkish bombardment of the region, the army used an unknown weapon. Many of our fighters had difficulty in breathing. It’s reported that 20 Turkish gang members were also affected by the bombing.

Our forces launched simultaneous actions against Turkish military positions in Sheikhhorze and Tobala villages. Both positions were cleared of invaders and the enemy suffered many casualties.

Our forces also cleared Baxice village of the invaders.

Five Turkish soldiers and gangs were killed during the fighting in Kure Hill and SDF fighters found 20 more bodies in the area.

(https://anfenglish.com/rojava/sdf-statement-on-clashes-in-afrin-canton-24776)

 

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR): 21 days of Operation “Olive Branch” kills about 365 citizens and fighters of the Kurdish units, the factions and the Turkish soldiers in Afrin area

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was founded by Rami Abdulrahman, in May 2006, in the UK. Its stated aim is to document alleged human rights abuses in Syria.

 

Its Report following the “21st consecutive day” of the Turkish invasion:

 

“Targeting by the Turkish forces of places in the Afrin area which is controlled by the YPG in the north-western section of Aleppo province, is continuing, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored that the shelling by the Turkish forces was renewed on areas in the northern and the western countryside of Afrin, in conjunction with continuation of the clashes between the Turkish forces and their allied rebel and Islamic factions against the YPG and the Self-Defense Forces, in places in Shikhorzah area in the northern countryside of Afrin, in conjunction with clashes in areas in Jendires area and the western and the south-western countryside of Afrin, amid Turkish attempts to hold their advancement in the area at the expense of the Kurdish units, and expand their scope of control after they have controlled a town and 15 scattered villages on the border line between Afrin and Turkey during the past 20 days, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored bombardment by Turkish warplanes targeting areas in a village in Jendires Township, in an attempt to secure the advancement of their forces in this area.

 

These clashes and the shelling within Operation “Olive Branch” which has entered its 21st consecutive day since the Turkish announcement of launching Operation “Olive Branch”, has resulted in the fall of a large number of human losses of citizens and fighters in the ranks of both parties, the SOHR has documented the death of 70 Syrian citizens of the Kurds, Arabs and Armenians including 21 children and 13 citizen women, who used to live in the Afrin area or have been displaced to it in the past years, while tens of others were injured with varying severity, including children and citizen women, some of the injuries have permanent disabilities, and the clashes, the exchange of targeting and the shelling by the Turkish forces, resulted in the fall of more human losses in the ranks of the conflicted parties, where it has increased to 135, the number of the fighters of the YPG and the Self-Defense forces who were killed in these clashes during 21 days of the military operations, while it has increased to 158, the number of the fighters and soldiers of the forces of the “Olive Branch” Operation who were killed in these clashes, including more than 22 soldiers of the Turkish forces, while the others are fighters of the rebel and Islamic factions, and tens of members of the both parties were injured with varying severity, which may raise the death toll even more. (http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=84503)

 

Other Reports: Firat News Agency Figures

 

“The Turkish state has lost hundreds of soldiers during the ongoing invasion attempt it launched against Afrin Canton of Northern Syria on January 20. According to a compilation by Rojava-based Hawar News Agency (ANHA), at least 669 members of the Turkish army and allied gangs were killed between January 20 – February 7. Those killed include officers and gang leaders.

 

During the same period, one drone and 43 tanks were destroyed, while 22 tanks and military vehicles were damaged.” (https://anfenglish.com/rojava/25-soldiers-and-gang-members-killed-in-a-village-of-afrin-24825)

 

A day earlier the agency put the figures for civilian dead at 150 and noted:

“Around 150 civilians lost their life, hundreds of houses and sub-structures were either demolished completely or damaged heavily because of the attacks.”

 

Likewise Afrin health officials estimate at least 140 civilians have been killed since the start of the invasion.

(http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/middleeast/syria/090220181)

 

By the start of week four, the 11th February, “Afrin officials reported 160 civilian deaths, including 26 children and 17 women, and another 395 injured in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch that was launched on January 20.”

(http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/middleeast/syria/090220182)

 

It would surely be only realistic to only assume that these figures remain estimates and that those dead and wounded from the civilian population may well be many more…

 

The Worker’s Solidarity Movement in Ireland were also critical of the Turkish Military efforts, writing during the week:

 

“NATO’s 2nd largest army has failed to achieve any significant breakthrough against the defenders of Afrin despite deploying some of the most advanced tanks, helicopters, artillery and jet bombers.

 

The invading force is made up of elite Turkish army units with state of the art equipment often supplied by Germany and other NATO countries who command and control a much larger force of militia formed from the various pro-Turkey factions of the Free Syrian Army including jihadi units. A detailed report from the ‘Democratic Self-Administration’ on the invasion even includes a listing of 16 or so unit commanders who have previously fought as part of ISIS.

 

Several atrocity videos are in circulation which were recorded and posted by either members of these units or by the Turkish army accompanying them which show the torture of civilians and in the worst case the mutilation of the body of a fallen YPJ fighter which included cutting off the breasts of the dead woman. Reports say she, Barin Kobanie, was killed with 3 other women of the YPJ when they were surrounded while defending Qarnah village on Jan. 30…

 

…In the aftermath of the 2016 coup Turkish president Erdoğan escalated his purges of the officer core. This alongside the furious resistance of the defenders of Afrin may be why the invasion has made little progress to date beyond the pockets on the border. Key mountain tops were announced to be captured by day only to be lost again that night. Even pro-government Turkish media has admitted to the loss of at least 3 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks, the German equivalent to the M1 Abrams alongside perhaps a dozen lesser armoured vehicles. From the same sources and video posted by the SDF these have been taken out by a variety of anti-tank missile systems of various origins but mostly of Russian manufacture.

 

The source is of some importance as Erdoğan was keen to blame the US for having armed the SDF for their fight with ISIS. In reality US supplies to the SDF seldom if ever included ATGM systems except where they were supervised and recovered afterwards by US Special forces. And despite the presence of ISIS and Al Qaeda figures among the Turkish proxy army the US has not lifted a military finger to support the SDF forces who were and continue to be the only effective ground force fighting ISIS elsewhere in Syria.

 

Kurdish communities across Europe have been mobilising in protest and in several cases attacked by Turkish mobs associated with the fascist ‘Grey Wolves’. In Rome and London they have also been attacked by the police, even in Dublin there were scuffles with Turkish embassy ‘security’ staff. The Turkish state has arrested over 500 people in Turkey for opposing the invasion, many of these have been arrested for simply tweeting opposition. Alongside this the Turkish state has escalated its demands that Twitter remove pro-Kurdish accounts and/or make their tweets unavailable in Turkey. This includes many tweets that mention civilian casualties and its reported that 100 or more accounts have been shut down. Much of this censorship is actually being implemented in the Dublin headquarters of Twitter and other social media outlets, the companies have long conceded an overwhelming censorship power to the Turkish state.” (http://news.infoshop.org/middle-east/afrin-resists-turkey-for-17th-day/)

 

Other Reports; Ekurd Daily News: “The Americans will never abandon Turkey, whatever crimes Turkey commits – even when these crimes are increasingly heinous.”

 

“Turkey’s claim to have killed 900 Kurdish fighters, or ‘terrorists’, is false: those they are killing are predominantly ordinary people.

 

Afrin’s innocent civilians are being slain by Turkish forces in the course of implementing far wider geopolitical and economic goals in Syria and Iraq.

 

The Syrian News Agency, SANA, claims the Syrian Foreign Ministry has formally written to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council concerning Turkish “lies, which no longer convince anyone…Syria called on the Security Council not to allow Turkey’s use of force contrary to international law.”

 

No Kurdish future is safe – What is the solution?

 

Temporary allies of the US forces, the Syrian Kurds are being sacrificed to the Turkish war machine by a slow-acting West – even before the object of defeating ISIS can seriously be achieved. America is a fickle ally, whose self interest in the region determines its every move. The Americans will never abandon Turkey, whatever crimes Turkey commits – even when these crimes are increasingly heinous.

Toppling the Turkish dictator promises to be much harder than dislodging ISIS.” (http://ekurd.net/syrian-problem-turkey-ii-2018-02-07)

 

Other News: Turkey’s use of chemical weapons in the Şêkurzê area

 

Tuesday, 9th February the YPG issued a statement responding to Turkey’s allegations that Kurdish forces had used chemicals weapons:

 

“The occupying Turkish state and the terrorist groups under their control claim that chemical weapons were used by the YPG in order to fabricate a cover for their fiasco in the north of Afrin.

 

On the contrary, the Turkish army, which suffered heavy blows during our operations in the Şêkurzê area, bombed the area with artillery shells from chemical weapons.

 

Our forces moved to high points after being subjected to the effects of the weapon during the conflict, and the Turkish-backed terrorists left on the ground were affected by the weapon themselves…

 

As the People’s Defense Units, we feel the need to reiterate that we have no basis other than the legitimate line of defense against the fascist attacks on our lands and on our people. We condemn the use of these and similar weapons no matter where and whoever it is used by.

We find it beneficial to express once again that the occupying Turkish state and their terrorists have not had the strength to fight against our forces on the ground, and that they have tried to conceal their defeat with such ugly smearing.”

(http://theregion.org/article/12753-syrian-kurds-now-say-turkey-gassed-it-s-own-proxy-rebels-in-afrin-by-mistake)

 

Other News: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)

 

Between 15,000 and 30,000 residents of Afrin canton, in northwestern Aleppo, have fled their homes over the past three weeks:

 

“Afrin residents are fleeing their homes to escape shelling and ground fighting between Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions and a local Kurdish militia that began on January 20.

 

Most of the displaced have sought refuge in Afrin city—the center of the eponymous canton and, for now, a settlement relatively isolated from the most intense fighting and bombings.

 

There, new arrivals are staying in basement shelters established by the Kurdish Self-Administration—the de facto government of Syria’s northern Kurdish-majority regions—most of which are “unfit for living,” Hayfeen Muhammad Hanan, a Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC) spokeswoman in Afrin, told Syria Direct on Thursday.  The KRC is currently providing aid and medical care to residents affected by the conflict.” (http://syriadirect.org/news /)

 

Can Êzîdxelo  @ezidxelo, also tetted on February 10:

“Urgent: People of #Afrin need urgent humanitarian aid. Turkey and the jihadists are still bombing and shelling the entire region. Heavy clashes in 5 frontlines right now. People, mostly children, are still stuck in the basements. #StopAfrinGenocide #DefendAfrin” (https://twitter.com/ezidxelo)

 

…As to the future?

 

At the moment there appears to be little hope…

 

“French Ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, told Rudaw’s Majeed Gly in New York that France backed a ceasefire that would include Turkey’s operation in Afrin.  When calling for a ceasefire in Syria, Afrin “is definitively part of the equation,” Delattre said.

 

Vassily Nebenzia, ambassador to the UN for Russia, which holds a veto on the council, had described a ceasefire at this time as “not realistic.”

 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said they are also concerned about the humanitarian situation in a number of areas, including Afrin, but advocated reaching a cessation of hostilities through the Astana process, being led by Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara.” (http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/middleeast/syria/090220182\)

 

…which might sound to anyone less impressed by international relations theory as an example of asking the wolf to “take care” of the sheep..?

 

The Workers Solidarity Movement:

“The coming days are going to either see the Turkish offensive being quietly brought to a halt in recognition that its stalemated or a massive escalation of the violence to try and overcome the defenders. If – as is likely – Erdoğan takes the second route then the civilian death toll will soar into the thousands and tens of thousands.

 

With the SDF forced to redeploy their forces to Afrin to fight the invasion a major resurgence of ISIS becomes quite likely. ISIS have already moved onto the offensive after two years of being driven back and into the desert by the SDF, even losing their capital city Raqqa.

 

In both cases while the Turkish state bears the direct responsibility so to do the rest of the NATO powers who have reacted to the invasion by staring at their shoes and hoping it ends before public pressure forces them to some measure of action. That pressure is greatest in Germany because of the major and very visible role played by German manufactured tanks in the invasion, Germany had agreed to upgrade the Leopard tanks it had already sold but outrage at the invasion has forced Berlin to suspend that deal.” (http://news.infoshop.org/middle-east/afrin-resists-turkey-for-17th-day/)

 

What’s new you might ask again?.. in a region of 323,000 people, (UN figures), of which, 192,000 are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid and 125,000 were already internally displaced persons / IDPs..?

 

What’s new… when we remember the tragedy in Cizre and the other Kurdish towns and villages in south-east Turkey recently ‘visited’ by President Erdoğan’s army “when all the world was just silent”?.. The massacre in Kobani?.. The slaughter of the Kurds-Yazids in Shingal by ISIS militants?.. Or in Halabja, at 11:00 AM, on March 16, 1988, when thousands of Kurds killed in the chemical attacks of Saddam Hussein during the “Anfal” operation?… The list goes on and on…

 

What’s new?..

 

And, as the people of Afrin entered the fourth week of the assault on their lives, their families, their homes and their livelihoods,  once again Afrin administration co-chair Hevi Mustafa took the opportunity on Friday to condemn the “international silence” and appealed, once again, to the UN Security Council to stop Turkey’s operation…

 

…what else and why not?.. as the Turkish radical and poet Nazim Hikmet said from exile in Leipzig, on his own flight from the Turkish authorities, in 1957:

 

“the world’s not ruled by governments or money

but by the people

a hundred years from now

maybe

but it will be for sure.”

 

We hope…

 

séamas carraher

 

Cover Image:

Turkish Army and Air force of Turkey elements hit YPG / PYD targets in Afrin, Syria (Open Street Map).

Red: Entry route of Turkish armored troops, soldiers and artillery (Gülbaba Village and Öncüpınar Border Gate)

Blue: Operation route of Turkish F-16 aircraft: 8. Main Jet Base Command, Diyarbakır (8), 3. Main Jet Base Command, Konya (3), 1. Main Jet Base Command, Eskişehir (1), 7. Main Jet Base Command, Malatya (7)

By Pivox, Open Street Map (Own work)

[ODbL (http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/1.0/) or CC BY-SA 3.0

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Updates:

https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/turkey-syria-recent-developments-northwestern-syria-idleb-governorate-0

http://www.rudaw.net/mobile/english/analysis/23012018

http://www.france24.com/en/20180211-11-turkish-troops-killed-helicopter-downed-deadliest-day-afrin-offensive

http://theregion.org/article/12790-039-kurdish-pigs-039-how-the-attacks-on-afrin-are-rooted-in-sexism-and-anti-kurdish-racism

http://theregion.org/article/12679-afrin-between-the-claws-of-the-major-powers

http://ekurd.net/kurdistan-own-game-2018-02-09

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Menu

 

Video:

Syria: Kurdish women fighters vow to avenge Barin Kobani’s death

Destruction in Syria’s Afrin region as Turkey Olive Branch op continues

YPG Kurds confirm bringing down Turkish chopper

Turkish backed extremist are back stronger than ever now with Turkey as an official partner. Guess the silent supporter tactic didn’t work out. So here we see Modern FSA – on a YPG body. Daesh in “new uniforms…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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