Syrian Air Force Kills Many in Kurdish Town of Sere Kaniye

13/11/2012 04:12:00 By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The town of Ras al-Ayn — known in Kurdish as Sere Kaniye — was bombed by fighter jets and helicopters on Monday. News agencies reported that more than 18 people were killed; six of them Kurdish. Kurds have suspicions that Turkey is supporting the takeover of Ras al-Ayn by Syrian rebels.

Faruq Hadji, a journalist based in Kobane, told Rudaw that two Kurdish houses were targeted. “The house of Mele Derwish and the house of Azadi (Kurdistan Freedom Party) member Eli Mela were bombed,” he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that dozens of civilians were injured, some severely, by the aerial bombardment on the Kurdish neighborhood al-Houranieh in Ras al-Ayn. Twelve were killed, including seven from the Nusra front, a paramilitary group with ties to al-Qaeda. At least 40 people were injured when a bomb was dropped on a building in the neighborhood of al-Mahata.

Later in the day, fighter planes carried out two sorties on al-Mahata. Al Arabiya quoted Syrian sources that indicated 16 were killed.The bombing follows the takeover of Ras al-Ayn by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) last Thursday. According to the SOHR, rebels stormed the city from Turkey, resulting in the flight of 8,000 civilians trying to find refuge beyond the Turkish border.

On Sunday, refugees began to return from Turkey, but the bombing forced many to flee again. The rebels killed more than 20 members of the Syrian forces and took over the military, state and air force security branches in Ras al-Ayn. A doctor told SOHR that more than 40 members of the security forces had been killed, while the fate of the captured governor and 25 police officers is still unknown.

Badir Mustafa, a member of the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), blamed both the regime and the FSA brigade who had taken over Ras al-Ayn. He also criticized Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir, a prominent Syrian tribal leader, who visited the city after the FSA arrived.

“This man is known for his hatred toward Kurds,” Mustafa said. “That’s why they used Turkish land to enter Sere Kaniye.” Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir is head of the Baqara tribe from Deir Ezzor and a former member of parliament. According to Time, he was one of the first tribal leaders to publicly defect from the regime in January. Allegedly, he visited the town to arm the Arab tribes in the area. Massoud Ako, a Kurdish journalist from Syria, told Rudaw, “We do not have any problem with him.”

However, Ako mentioned that he threatened Kurds during the Syrian opposition conference in Cairo last fall. “When they asked about their rights in Syria, he said he would fight with Assad [against Kurds],” he said.

“There is a dirty game being played by some in Turkey and some parts of the Syrian opposition to transport the war to the Kurdish area,” Ako added.

Heyam Aqil, the UK representative of the Kurdistan Democracy Party Syria, posted on her Facebook page that all reports pointed to the FSA militia entering Sere Kaniye from Turkey. “The FSA directed by Turkey is aiming to spread violence and chaos in the Kurdish region of Syria which hosts over 1 million [internally] displaced Syrians,” Aqil wrote.

After the FSA took over Ras al-Ayn, members of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) – a branch of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — took control of several towns in the predominantly Kurdish province of Hasaka. According to reports from the SOHR, they took over security buildings and checkpoints in Amude, Derek, Nahiyat Tamr and Dirbesiye.

The SOHR described the besiegement of security branches in Dirbesiye by the PYD, “which lasted for hours and led to negotiations that facilitated the safe exit of all regime forces and the handing over of power to the local population.”