Kurds near Turkey border dread fresh offensive
Residents take shelter and fear worst after recent artillery fire into Syria
ASHMA, Syria: Chimo Osman’s children stopped going to school after Turkish shelling struck his home in northeastern Syria, where Kurdish residents fear another military onslaught is imminent.
In recent days, cross-border Turkish artillery fire has targeted positions held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria.
Ankara sees the de-facto autonomous rule set up by Syrian Kurds as an encouragement to the separatists of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has close ties to the YPG.
The village of Ashma is nestled in olive groves in the region of Ain al-Arab and directly looks out onto the Turkish flags and wire fencing that mark the demarcation line.
The streets of this village and others along the border are empty: “We can’t even venture on the roof anymore,” Osman said.
“We don’t leave the house, the kids are scared,” the 38-year-old said, standing on the steps leading to his front door, with his five children huddled around him.
Nobody can predict when the Turkish forces stationed on the other side of the border will open fire, he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Oct. 30 that plans for an assault were complete and vowed to “destroy” the YPG, which he considers a terrorist organization.
One salvo punched a large hole in the second floor of Osman’s house and several other homes in the village were damaged by Turkish fire.
Five YPG fighters and a child have been killed in Turkish shelling that has in recent days mostly targeted Kurdish positions in the Ain al-Arab and Tal Abyad areas, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The YPG is the backbone of an outfit known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the U.S.-led coalition’s main local ally in its battle against Daesh (ISIS).
To protest against the Turkish attacks, SDF forces late last month announced they were suspending their involvement in military operations against one of the very last extremist pockets in eastern Syria.
The move was aimed at obtaining guarantees from their U.S. sponsors that Turkey would not seek to move in across the border as they did in the Kurdish-dominated enclave of Afrin earlier this year.
According to the Britain-based observatory, more than 330 Kurdish fighters have already perished in the course of the latest offensive against Daesh.
Many fighters waging this deadly battle on militants in their remote desert hideouts feel they would rather die protecting their ancestral land from Turkey.
In Ain al-arab cemetery, hundreds of people attended the funeral Tuesday of an SDF fighter who became the latest casualty of the extremists’ bloody last stand in the Hajin region.
Women wept over the coffin as patriotic songs were blared over speakers, while local officials gave speeches that condemned the Turkish bombardment.
“The Turkish state is hostile to the Kurds and we have to right to respond to any attack,” Esmat Sheikh Hassan, a Ain al-Arab military official, told AFP at the funeral.
“They don’t differentiate between soldiers and civilians,” Hassan said. “They strike inhabited villages,” he added, replying to Ankara’s claims its forces only strike military targets.
Hamo Masibkeradi, one of the residents who came to attend the funeral, points to the rows of marble tombstones that mark the graves of fighters who died fighting against Daesh.
“These martyrs fell for humanity. The international community should help us,” he said.
“Erdogan wants to wipe us out. The U.S. cannot allow this injustice.” –
Osman stands with his children in the village of Ashma.