Kurds near Turkey bor­der dread fresh of­fen­sive

Res­i­dents take shel­ter and fear worst af­ter re­cent ar­tillery fire into Syria

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

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.

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