Syrian Kurds call on Russia and US to stop new Turkish attacks

Ilham Ahmad, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), on Thursday called on Russia and the US to prevent further Turkish attacks amidst fears of a possible new Turkish operation near Ain Issa.

  1. Dec 2020 – ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Ilham Ahmad, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), on Thursday called on Russia and the US to prevent further Turkish attacks amidst fears of a possible new Turkish operation near Ain Issa.

“Unprecedented escalation in Tal Tamer and Ain Issa, by the state of Turkey and its factions since ten days ago,” she said in a tweet, in both Russian and English.

“We hold the guarantor countries [to] the responsibility to bind Turkey to ceasefire agreements.”

After Turkey conducted a cross-border attack into northeastern Syria in October 2019, Russia and the US reached separate ceasefire deals with Ankara, which allowed Turkish troops to control the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye).

Although US President Donald Trump initially decided last year to withdraw US forces from northeast Syria following a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he was later convinced to keep troops in the northeast to prevent oil fields from falling into the hands of Iran or the Islamic State.

As a result, there are still US troops in the Hasakah and Deir al-Zor provinces, which contain the majority of Syria’s oil resources, even as the US withdrew from bases surrounding Kobani, Manbij, and Raqqa that were later taken over by the Russian military.

Despite the agreements, Turkish-backed groups and the Turkish army itself continue to periodically target areas held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In some cases, villagers living in Syrian-Turkish border areas were killed in attacks by the Turkish military and the rebel
forces Ankara supports.

Since the last month, there has been an increase in the attacks near Ain Issa, which has led to the displacement of hundreds of civilians.

On Wednesday, there were reports that the Russians, the SDF, and the Syrian government reached an agreement to create three (Russian) observation points to prevent further Turkish attacks.

Read More: SDF, Russia reach deal to prevent further Turkish attacks in Ain Issa

However, there are still fears that Turkey could attempt to isolate the Kurdish-majority city of Kobani by taking control of a part of the international M4 road in the countryside, west of Ain Issa, that is used by civilians to travel to Kobani from the Hasakah and Raqqa provinces.

Also, the local Northpress news agency reported in Arabic on Thursday that Turkey and Turkish-backed opposition factions are preparing for a large-scale attack on Manbij, Ain Issa, and Tal Tamir.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Thursday said that nearly 7,000 people fled the town of Ain Issa, which hosts around 11,000 people, amidst fears of a new imminent Turkish military operation.

The SOHR report also stated that on Nov. 19, the Turkish army also established a new military base in Tamameeh village in rural Ain Issa, bringing in logistical supplies and building materials.

This has increased fears among locals of renewed conflict.

The United States on Friday expressed concern about the recent increase of violence this week near Ain Issa, Tal Tamir, and Ras al-Ain, condemning a bombing in the Turkish-occupied Ras al-Ain that killed two soldiers last Thursday.

“We call on all parties to exercise restraint, deescalate the situation, and preserve the October 2019 ceasefire.”

Also on Friday, fighting again took place between the SDF and Turkish-backed forces on the M4 road outside Ain Issa. The Rojava Media Center (RMC) reported that SDF forces repulsed the attack.

Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that Syria’s northeast is vulnerable to Turkish attacks, especially the areas where the US-led coalition left, such as Manbij and Ain Issa.

“Ain Issa [is] taking the brunt of daily heavy shelling, which has cost the lives of at least four civilians, wounded many more, and driven out scores of families as refugees across the last couple of weeks with people fleeing south to Raqqa,” McClure said.

“This means a very real possibility that Turkey will launch [a] further operation and [try] to seize more land in any of these locations, particularly in the weeks leading up to Joe Biden taking office.”

Editing by John J. Catherine