We are now two weeks into the Turkish military – supported by the paramilitary groups of the Free Syrian Army (“al-Qaida & al-Nusra terrorists” ANF) – assault on Afrin
“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…”
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish President and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
“The AKP government targets civilians, children and women.”
Ancela Reşo, co-chair of the Health Council of the Canton of Afrin, Rojava.
“What did we do to him?[Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] We lost our homes, our children, nothing is left … why would this happen to us? Is not this a shame that children have to live like that? We are human beings, are we not? Why are they doing this to us?.. This is a massacre… Please convey our message we are pleading with the international community to stop the killing of the civilians… stop the airstrikes and the war against us…” Um Muhammed, Afrin, Rojava.
We are now two weeks into the Turkish military – supported by the paramilitary groups of the Free Syrian Army (“al-Qaida & al-Nusra terrorists” ANF) – assault on Afrin, this mountainous region in Rojava close to the Turkish Border and which has about 350 towns, including the cities of Afrin, Janders, Bulbul, Sharan and Raju. This violent conflict which is slowly losing the attention of the world’s media continues to result in the death and maiming of innocent civilians as well as massive destruction to their homes and means of livelihood. By the end of the week doctors at Afrin Hospital were calling on the international community to offer support as they are quickly running out of medicines: “We do not have enough medicine. We do what we can, but soon our supplies will be used up.” (https://anfenglishmobile.com/news/medico-international-calls-for-emergency-aid-for-afrin-s-victims-24642)
So one thing, still, for sure: innocent civilians continue to die…
Despite the now obvious difficulties facing the Turkish war machine – (“Only a few tanks have actually been seen by the Kurdish fighters north of Afrin and almost nothing at all of the Free Syrian Army militia…” Robert Fisk, 30 January) – Turkish media not surprisingly continues to demonstrate the “success” of the Turkish hoped-for-blitzkrieg…covering President Erdoğan’s claims to his supporters at the AKP Congress in Biliuts on Saturday 3rd February (the beginning of Week 3 of the ‘Campaign’): “We are advancing into Afrin [city center]. We are close.”
You hope, Mr. President…
Anadolu Agency, the state-run news agency of the Turkish government also offered uncorroborated figures for Turkish civilians dead at the 2 week-threshold of the campaign:
“Since the start of the operation, the PYD/PKK has carried out cross-border attacks on Turkey by firing rockets on civilian neighborhoods, killing at least seven civilians and injuring 107 others including children.” (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/Erdogan-turkish-troops-getting-close-to-afrin-city-/1053303)
Figures of Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters “neutralised”: were also released by the Press Agency on behalf of the Turkish military’s General Staff on Saturday:
A total of 897 “PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists”. (http://aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/close-to-900-terrorists-neutralized-so-far-in-afrin-op/1053103)
As well as innocent civilians who are dying…Kurdish Media produced images of the funerals for the Kurdish fighters, male and female who have died since the beginning of the Turkish invasion: January 29: “Funeral of 23 martyrs with the attendance of thousands of people. 8 of them civilians and 15 of them Asayîş and YPG.” (https://twitter.com/ICafrinresist/status/957921280266768384/video/1)
Also on Saturday, 3 February the Health Council of Afrin Canton, released its figures for civilian casualties:
150 civilians were killed and more than 298 others were wounded following “attacks by the Turkish army and allied gangs…”
The Health Council called this “a war crime in the northern Syria territory“. (https://anfenglishmobile.com/rojava/150-civilians-massacred-298-wounded-in-afrin-in-14-days-24675)
“The casualties of the Turkish attacks on the civilian population of Afrin are rising daily. The Health Council of the Canton of Afrin has researched the current situation in the hospitals of the city and the districts of Sherawa, Cinderês, Rajo, Shiye and Bilbilê and announced a balance of the past two weeks.” (ANF)
“These numbers are increasing every hour. These figures are from the information available to us. We suspect the real numbers are even higher.” Ancela Reşo (https://anfenglishmobile.com/rojava/150-civilians-massacred-298-wounded-in-afrin-in-14-days-24675)
Ancela Reşo, from The Health Council of Afrin, also pointed out:
“As Turkish ground forces could not advance in the face of SDF resistance, the civilian population is being bombed…Many of the injured had lost limbs and many of the dead had dismembered bodies.”
In the main hospital in Afrin:
“Right now we are overwhelmed with injured and killed civilians,” says Dr. Jawan Muhammed, general manager of the local hospital, in a CNN report on Thursday, February 1st. “Our hospital is unable to cope, Our surgery rooms are overwhelmed. We conduct 18 surgeries a day. We are using up all our medical supplies because of the overwhelming number of casualties as a result of indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery fire.”
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Statement
During the second week of operations The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) held a press conference in Ayn Isa, a town in the Girê Spî (Tell Abyad) Canton “and announced the balance sheet in the Resistance of the Age in Afrin for one week”…
“Unable to advance in the face of the resistance by our fighters, the invading Turkish army is attacking the civilian population savagely. As a result of the attacks, dozens of civilians including children, women and the elderly have fallen as martyrs so far. With the attacks, they aim to force the people into migration that will change the demography. They are hitting and destroying historical places and damaging the most ancient temples in the Middle East.”
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) figures:
“The balance sheet of massacres perpetrated by the invading Turkish army and affiliated Al-Qaeda terror organisation from January 26 to February 1, and of the actions by SDF fighters is as follows;
1- The invading forces attacked civilian settlements in Afrin on all fronts and carried out bombardments 1893 times.
2- Turkish warplanes bombed civilian areas and front lines of resistance 460 times.
3- Cobra helicopters hit civilian settlements and fronts of resistance 15 times.
4- Reconnaissance aircraft flew over Afrin countless times.
The Turkish army and affiliated Al-Qaeda terrorists used prohibited arms like Napalm and cluster bombs in their attacks. Schools and mosques were also targeted by the Turkish army and bombardments on these areas left several civilians dead or wounded.
1- Our forces harshly responded to the attacks, resulting in confrontations 250 times.
2- 473 members of the Turkish army and allied terrorists were confirmed killed.
3- 32 bodies of Turkish soldiers and members of allied gangs remain in clashes areas and they cannot even retrieve these bodies.
4- A drone was downed and 25 military vehicles, including armored vehicles such as tanks and panzers, were destroyed.
5- 11 armored vehicles were left unusable.
6- Our forces seized an armored vehicle and a panzer, in addition to some ammunition.
7- Our forces engaged in armed confrontation with the enemy forces 72 times. The losses inflicted on the enemy in these clashes couldn’t be clarified.
8- 34 fighters of ours fell putting up a brave fight.
9- As a result of the attacks by the Turkish army, 30 people, among them women and children, fell as martyrs and dozens of others got wounded.
10- A wounded fighter of ours was taken prisoner. The invading Turkish army and allied Al-Qaeda terror organisation kidnapped 6 civilians from border villages.”
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
The Coventry, UK based, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published its research: “Operation “Olive Branch” launched by the Turkish forces and escalating the shelling on Afrin completed today Friday the 2nd of February 2018, its second consecutive week” (http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=84257):
“Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored intensive and violent shelling, by the Turkish forces, on areas near the border line and other areas deep in the Afrin area, in the north-western section of Aleppo, and the shelling targeted areas in Jendires towns and other villages related to it in the south-western countryside of Afrin, in conjunction with raids by Turkish warplanes which targeted areas in Raju Township in the western countryside of Afrin, while areas in Bulbula town and its outskirts in the northern part of Afrin area, have been witnessing violent clashes since yesterday between the YPG and the Self-Defense forces against the Turkish forces and the groups of the Gray Wolves, with the continuous attempts by the forces of the “Olive Branch” Operation to achieve further advancement in the area at the expense of the Kurdish forces, in which this operation aims to end the control of the Kurdish forces on the area, where the Turkish forces expanded their control since the 20th of January 2018, to 15 villages and areas in the north-east of Afrin reaching its south-west”.
SOHR: Human losses since the 20th of January 2018 documented
68 Syrian citizens of the Kurds, Arabs and Armenians including 21 children and 12 citizen women, who used to live in the Afrin area or have been displaced to it in the past years, due to the bombardment by the Turkish warplanes and the shelling by the Turkish forces by shells and missiles…
195 citizens others were injured with varying severity…
102 at least, the number of fighters of the YPG and the Self-Defense forces who were killed in the aerial, rocket and artillery shelling, clashes and targeting in Afrin area…
110 at least, the number of members of the rebel and Islamic factions and the Turkish forces within Operation “Olive Branch” who were killed in clashes and targeting, including 11 soldiers of the Turkish forces, where the YPG still have 4 bodies of them, and the clashes between them resulted in the fall of tens of injuries, captives and missing people in the ranks of the both parties, and the number of casualties may increase because of the presence of serious injuries, and there is information about more human losses in the ranks of the both parties.
Damage to Infrastructure
“The aerial, rocket and artillery shelling, the military operation in the area, and the targeting by the attacking helicopters and warplanes of the Afrin area with hundreds of airstrikes, caused great material damage, and some of them have threatened vital constructions such as Maydanki Dam “the 17th of Nisan Dam” which would flood large spaces of the Afrin area in the case of being directly bombed by the Turkish forces after they targeted its vicinity during the past few days by 3 rounds of bombardment, in addition to targeting archeological sites in the areas of Ein Dara, Al-Nabi Hori and Deir Messhmesh in the south and the south-east of Afrin and causing great material damage to the Ein Dara area, and this intensive shelling on the Afrin area which is semi-besieged, and which has only one corridor with the control areas of the regime forces and the YPG-held areas in Aleppo through the towns of Nubl and Al-Zahraa which are controlled by the regime forces and gunmen loyal to them, which resulted in dropping and worsening the humanitarian situation of the residents of the Afrin area and other hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have been displaced to it in the past months and years, from the Syrian provinces, in which the residents suffer from the start of the decline in alimentary aid, supplies, medicine and foodstuffs, specially among the displaced people who have nothing except the aid distributed to them regularly, while the checkpoints of Bashkuy and Duwayr Al-Zaytun as well as the checkpoints of the 4th division at the Industrial area in Sheikh Najjar, prevent thousands of displaced people reaching their homes and their relatives’ homes in the controlled areas on the Kurdish units (YPG) in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsood and Al-Ashrafiyah and other areas in the outskirts of Aleppo city.”
Other Reports: Turkish Military Figures
“Military officials in Ankara Sunday claimed that Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies…have killed or captured more than 484 Kurdish militiamen since launching Operation Olive Branch.
And they say that in the week since the beginning of an incursion that threatens to unravel U.S. policy in Syria only three Turkish soldiers have been killed and 30 injured, while 13 Syrian rebels have been killed and 24 wounded.”
Voice of America, the Washington-based, U.S. government-funded news agency, concluded:
“The Turkish military is blocking journalists from entering Syria to cover first-hand the fighting, but they did organize a tour for reporters, who last week were taken to see a hospital and school in the Syrian border town of Azaz, both rebuilt by the Turks after their 2016 offensive in northern Syria. Prompted by their teachers, Syrian refugee children told reporters they were grateful to Turkey for the school.”
Other News: the US Response
‘”I am not aware of any incidents regarding what you just specified, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning told reporters who were asking about allegations by PYD/PKK…that Turkey’s military operation there had caused civilian deaths. “Kurdish forces who engage with Turkish forces in the Afrin region do not have any affiliation with the U.S.-led coalition whatsoever,’ he added.” (https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/not-aware-of-civilian-casualties-in-afrin-pentagon-3033552)
That said, in response to President Erdoğan’s recent warning to the U.S. forces based in Manbij, (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/turkey-to-us-end-syrian-kurd-support-or-risk-confrontation-1.3368231) which, he says, is his next target:
“U.S. troops will not withdraw from Manbij, a strategically important city in northern Syria” Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told CNN International on Jan. 28.” (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/pentagon-sdf-repositions-forces-to-syrias-north-in-response-to-turkeys-afrin-operation-126549)
Other News: Russian Response
“The death toll in Turkey’s military operation in Afrin stands at several hundred, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, which denied “betraying” the Kurds in northern Syria, hinting that the blame lies with the United States.
Hundreds have been killed and civilians are among the dead, Maria Zakharova, foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Zakharova said Russia is seriously concerned about the situation in northern Syria and urged all parties to show restraint.”
Other News: United Nations Response
“…is the world is becoming numb to the killing of children?”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the rising number of child casualties in Afrin, “along with other cities across the country and questioned if the world is becoming numb to the killing of children.”
‘“The grim tally of children killed in Syria in the past two weeks has increased daily as violence escalates in several areas across the country,” said Fran Equiza, head of UNICEF’s operations in Syria in a statement on Friday.
In Afrin…families have reportedly been prevented from leaving their homes and are confined to hiding in basements while shelling on their homes continues.
A UNICEF-supported child protection service which includes psychosocial support and child-friendly spaces had to be suspended and a majority of shops and markets in the district are closed.
Of the 23 deaths reported within the last few days, UNICEF stated that 11 children casualties occurred in Afrin.
UNICEF received alarming reports of at least eleven children killed and many more injured in ongoing violence in Afrin district, north-west Syria, Equiza said.
Additionally, Ankara’s offensive against Afrin has forced a temporary halt to humanitarian shipments moving across the border from Turkey, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Friday.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for OCHA, stated that 123 aid trucks have been put on hold in the past week.” (http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/270120184)
“According to UN figures, 323,000 people are living in Afrin and nearby areas under Kurdish control. Of them, 192,000 are in need of humanitarian aid and 125,000 are IDPs displaced from other parts of Syria.” (https://www.unicef.org.uk/press-releases/statement-unicef-escalating-violence-syria/)
“’Wars have laws and these laws are being broken every single day in Syria,’ said Equiza, adding that all parties in the conflict must ‘honor obligations to protect children at all times and to allow safe passage to all people wishing to leave areas under attack.’
UNICEF reported the deaths of at least 23 children within the past few days alone as a result of fighting in Afrin, Khan Shaykhoun, Saraqab, Idlib and Damascus.”
Naphalm Used by Turkish Military & Air Force?
A number of newspapers, including the English newspaper the Sunday Express carried the accusation that the Turkish invasion army are using napalm in Afrin leaving it open to charges of violating international law:
“Syrian-Kurdish politician Îlham Ehmed, who is co-chairperson of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) – a secular, non-Islamist opposition in Syria – accused Turkey of using the “forbidden” weapon against civilians.
Writing on Twitter, she said: “The Turkish army uses the forbidden weapon napalm in Afrin against civilians.”
Similarly, “The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) suggested that the Turkish army used napalm in Afrin, during a conference on the current humanitarian situation on Thursday in Ayn Issa camp, Syria. Some suggestions are saying that Napalm was used, with shelling with Valcom missiles. ‘If you make a search about these missiles you will see their strength and the way they work. Valcom missiles are like a mini nuclear bomb,’ said Redor Khalil, SDF Public Relations Officer.” (https://muraselon.com/en/2018/02/video-kurdish-forces-accuse-turkey-using-napalm-afrin/)
Also, “Sinam Mohamad, foreign representative for the Rojava administration of Kurdish-held northern Syria, reported on Tuesday that Turkey had used “internationally banned cluster bombs” on villages in the Jandaris area of southwest Afrin. ” (http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/310120181)
Sunday, 4 February ANF released video from the YPG Press Office from the February 3 shelling by Turkish military of Saria village in Afrin’s Bulbul (Bilbile) district “and strange white smoke” that appeared as a result.
“The village is full of civilians and located at the southern countryside of Bulbul district. After the bombshell the residents suffered heavy coughing caused by the smoke….Footage recorded on Saturday shows white smoke raising as Saria village, where dozens of civilians reside, is shelled.”
The video can be seen here: https://anfenglish.com/rojava/civilian-settlements-in-afrin-bombarded-with-unknown-weapons-24690
…while more innocent civilians are being terrorised, maimed and murdered in what is now becoming hideously apparent as the start of the 2019 Turkish Presidential campaign (“President [Recep Tayip] Erdoğan has launched his presidential election campaign by invading Afrin. Attacking the Kurds, he believes, would consolidate the support he has been receiving from his nationalist allies…” the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party – HDP has said).
…leaving us now with few words left with any integrity then for this darkness at the heart of those we give a mandate to organise our societies and distribute its resources, however unequally or unjustly…
Only to say that it is time for change.
As Ancela Reşo, from the Health Council of Afrin Canton called on the United Nations and other international institutions to wake up, travel from their comfortable offices to this part of Kurdistan and investigate the situation on the ground “to see the crimes against humanity for themselves”…
…and where “…a few miles from the southern entrance of Afrin city, they are digging new graves for the latest “martyrs” – mostly Kurdish military, but also civilians whose families wish their relatives to be interred alongside the dead of the latest Kurdish war…” (Robert Fisk)
She also said that they are documenting the targeting of civilians in the attacks, noting that they can give these to anyone that wants to get them (The International Criminal Court, please take note).
“We urgently need medical support. Even ambulances are being attacked while transporting the injured. People are migrating to Afrin centre because of the attacks. We need solidarity”, she added.
In the meantime (but don’t hold your breath):
“‘We don’t know where to go,’ says Mohammed Khaled, 10, speaking in Kurdish. ‘The airplane has been dropping bombs for five days now. They are dropping missiles and bombs. My dad says not to go out because of the war planes and so we are sleeping in the huts. All our homes are destroyed.’ Khaled stands outside one of the structures where civilians are seeking shelter. Um Muhammed, Khaled’s mother, asks why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is bombing her people. ‘What did we do to him?’ she says in Arabic. ‘We lost our homes, our children, nothing is left … why would this happen to us? Is not this a shame that children have to live like that? We are human beings, are we not? Why are they doing this to us?.. This is a massacre…Please convey our message we are pleading with the international community to stop the killing of the civilians… stop the airstrikes and the war against us…”
(Watch CNN video footage of Um Muhammed and Turkey’s war on the women and children of Afrin: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/01/middleeast/syria-kurds-assault-civilians-intl/index.html)
You said it, Mrs. Muhammed.
Time to stop killing innocent civilians, President Erdoğan…
Afrin Operation-TAF bombings
By VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Injured Civilians/Children in Afrin
Refugees in Afrin
Heritage destroyed in Afrin
Unspeakable footage: “The poor body of şehid Barin Kobane. These are the militians hired by the Terrorist Turkish state”
Images Online: (courtesy of ANF)
Images of the destruction from Afrin (including the pictures of the wounded children) can be found at: