30 days of Operation “Peace Spring”: SDF loses almost half of its areas of control. Russia and Syrian regime emerge as a new player in the region. Civilians flee the Turkish-backed factions violations, death toll rises to 871 and disastrous humanitarian and medical conditions

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,

November 2019

With the clock ticking 4 PM (Damascus time), a full month passes since the launch of the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria under the name of Operation “Peace Spring”, which is supposed to be halted by the declaration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in accordance with the Turkish-Russian agreement on the withdrawal of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border areas and the deployment of regime forces instead, with joint Turkish-Russian patrols in specific areas. On the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the continuation of hostilities and attempts by Turkish forces and Turkish-backed factions to advance in several areas in the north of Syria, amid operations of repatriation and shifts in control over villages and areas between the SDF and the Turkish-backed so-called “Syrian National Army”.

In the 30 days since the start of the military operation, the north and north-east of Syria has undergone enormous transformations, not only in the areas of military and political control, but also in the humanitarian and social situations, power centers and alliances. Throughout this period, since the first day of Operation “Spring of Peace”, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored and documented what is happening in northern Syria as a result of the military operations taking place in the region.

SDF loses almost half of its areas of control. The International coalition turns into “Observer” and limits its control to “Oil Fields”, while Russia and the Syrian regime emerge as a new card for the game

Since the start of the Turkish military operation, the SOHR has monitored the progress of Turkish forces and their affiliated factions with intensive air and ground cover in a total area of ​​4820 km2 (13.1% of the total area controlled by the SDF), more than a quarter of Lebanon. At the same time, under a Russian-brokered deal between SDF and the regime, regime forces entered an area of ​​18821 km 2, which means that the SDF lost control of 23,641 km2, after it has been controlling an area of ​​52,916 km2 (28.6% of the total Syrian territory), before the launch of the military operation “Peace Spring”, which means that SDF now controls only 15.7% of the total area of ​​Syria.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria on October 6; marked the start of the Turkish military operation and a green light to rearrange the map of alliances and influence in the entire region. Although Trump’s decision to withdraw effectively began with withdrawing U.S. troops on the Syrian-Turkish border, the U.S. president partially reversed his decision after Turkish forces and their affiliates crossed the Syrian border. Trump announced that his troops would remain in Syria to “protect oil facilities,” and to prevent its return to the hands of the regime or Iran’s control. According to the information obtained by the SOHR, the US-led International Coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) has re-established itself in the region, leaving its old bases in Ain al-Arab (Kobani), Manbij, Ain Issa and several other bases, and they are working to establish three new bases in northern Syria, in order to position itself in ‘Deir Ezzor’ and to control of oil facilities. The Syrian Observatory also monitored the withdrawal of international coalition forces from the “Sarin Airport” military base located in the countryside of the city of Ain al-Arab (Kobani), before they returned to it again, as it was the area from which the team killed Abu-Bakr Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State.

Preparations are underway in northern and eastern Syria to establish three new joint military bases, namely the United States and other countries of the international coalition, both in al-Qamishli and several other areas in northeastern Syria. Reliable sources told the Syrian Observatory that the United States is seeking to have a physical presence to prevent anyone from controlling the airspace in the north and east of Syria, in addition to control the oil facilities. The SOHR obtained information indicating the process of power-sharing in the areas of northeastern Syria, which is currently taking place, in light of the joint Russian and US presence inside the region after the US forces withdrew and then returned again with the Russian forces entering the region in accordance with the “Putin – Erdogan” agreement, which was signed in Sochi last month. According to the new information, the Russian forces took control of a resort called the “Agricultural Club” in Qamishli, close to the airport area for its headquarters, at a time when the sources told the SOHR there are possibilities of the Syrian regime to lease the airport in Qamishli to Russian forces to be its headquarters for 49 years, as in case of “Khamimim AirBase”.

With the US withdrawal, the SDF resorted to Russia and the Syrian regime to deploy regime forces on the border with Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of SDF from that region. With the successive withdrawal of SDF forces in accordance to the Russian-Turkish agreement of Sochi between the Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the power-sharing in northeastern Syria is becoming increasingly dominant, with the area extending from Qamishli to Ain Dewar under the U.S. influence, while the area from Qamishli to Ras al-Ain (Sri Kanye) and Tal Abyad to Ain al-Arab (Kobani) is under Russian influence. Meanwhile, the area extending from Ras Al Ain to Tal Abyad is under Turkish influence, while the area of Abu Rasin and the countryside of Tal Tamr towards Ras al-Ain are witnessing renewed clashes between the SDF and Turkish-backed factions, like all areas between Ain Issa and Tal Abyad.

According to the US president’s vision for the Syrian oil, the coalition-backed forces in northern and eastern Syria have so far controlled nearly 70 percent of Syria’s oil production. According to reliable sources, they are controlling al-Omar oil field, Koniko gas and Al-Jafra oil field, which are the most important oil and gas fields in northern and eastern Syria, in addition to a number of stations and less productive fields, such as the Deiru station, Al-Kushma station, Rumailan fields, gypsa fields and gypsa gas plant, in addition to another station that the Chinese and others have obtained the rights to develop. In light of the changes of alliances that took place in the last period, and with Russia’s demand that sovereignty of Damascus over the oil and gas facilities at a time when the U.S. president asserts that the international coalition forces will remain in control of oil facilities to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of the Syrian regime or Iran; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls on the various parties of the Syrian conflict to provide all guarantees to ensure that the wealth owned by the Syrian people is not stolen.

300 thousand people without shelter. Worn tents and camps without aid. Medical staffs are target to the Turkish-backed factions. Northern Syria is witnessing a catastrophic humanitarian situation

Since the early hours of Wednesday morning, October 9, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored displacement of civilians from different parts of the East Euphrates region, fleeing the Turkish military operation in the area. According to the statistics of the SOHR, the number of displaced exceeded 300 thousand civilians displaced from their towns, cities and villages, where the movement of civilians continues from their areas in Tal Abyad, Ras Al Ain, Darbasiyah, Ain Al Arab (Kobani), Ain Issa and other areas east of the Euphrates at the border with Turkey. According to the SOHR, the number of displaced people exceeded 300 thousand civilians to the depth of the region, amid the difficult humanitarian conditions experienced by the region as a result of the increasing number of displaced.

According to information obtained by the SOHR, the situation of the displaced is witnessing a real humanitarian catastrophe threatening the Syrian civilians who had to flee their homes to escape the Turkish military operation. The SOHR learned that the Raqqa Civil Council is working to move the remaining tents in Ain Issa camp north of Raqqa, in order to establish a new camp for the displaced against the background of Operation “Peace Spring”. The new camp would be located in Tal al-Saman village, and the work on it is underway without any support from any international organization dealing with the humanitarian side, despite the difficult circumstances of the displaced, especially with the advent of winter, where support is limited to local organizations. Sources told the Syrian Observatory that the organizations began to gradually return to the area to complete their work there, while the reliable sources assured that local activities are working to establish a new camp in al-Hasakah area to accommodate the displaced people from Ras al-Ain city (Sri Kanye), despite the limited resources, amid the refusal of the so-called “governor of al-Hasakah” to lend a hand to them as he prevented the United Nations from providing assistance.

“The situation of displaced people in Raqqa is tragic, as the tents are worn in the absence of any support from UNHCR. There is a plan to establish to new refugee camps, and there is also the Yazidi refugee camp which was sheltering people from Sinjar, as there is an intention to rehabilitate it one again. More than 25 families have so far gone to the camp. Humanitarian situation is disastrous. People are sleeping in the open while rain fall upon their heads,” sources told the SOHR, “waves of displacement to Raqqa continue, amid difficult humanitarian conditions for some families displaced to the city and its countryside. In general, the majority of the displaced people from Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad have been accommodated. The Committee for Social Affairs and Labor in the region is working to provide assistance through liaison with local organizations to provide assistance to the displaced. As for the committee of education, it decided to host some of the displaced in the low capacity schools. Also, Ain Issa camp was relocated to al-Mahmudli village after it has been rehabilitated. In addition, there were some random camps on the main road of the northern countryside of Raqqa and its eastern countryside, but were moved. Also, there is Abu Jubaie camp in the southern countryside of Raqqa. In general, the ISF (Asayish) continues to impose a ban on the area in order to ensure that no one takes advantage of the situation, at least until the peace and calm return to the area, With the arrival of new arrivals coming from multiple areas”.

As for the situation in al-Hasakah, reliable sources said that more than 150 thousand people are homeless and do not have their daily needs, and most of them are now living in schools. “People are currently displaced to Tal Tamr, although it is not far from the front line and still at risk. According to reliable information, there are more than 400 families, mostly Arabs, Kurds and Syrians displaced to al-Hasakah,” Sources told the SOHR, “the situation is tragic. Displaced people are sleeping in the open. We therefore call on international organizations to intervene, especially since some families are women and children only”.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the medical situation in the north and north-east of Syria is witnessing a disastrous situation in terms of support given to them in light of the continuous targeting since the beginning of Operation “Peace Spring”, as the Turkish-backed factions targeted the medical staff of the U.S. organization “Free Burma Ranger” in “Rashidiya” village in the countryside of Tal Tamr, resulting in the death of a crew member, an Asian nationality, and the injury of another. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the fall of 4 victims of the Kurdish Red Crescent and the Health Authority within the areas of control of “SDF” so far as a result of the Turkish military operation (3 of the Health Authority were executed on the ground by the Turkish-backed factions in Selouk area north of Raqqa, the last belonging to the Kurdish Red Crescent was killed by shelling on the countryside of Ras Al-Ain city, in addition to 5 others were injured. The Syrian Observatory documented attempts by the Turkish-backed factions to impede the medical staff’s work in the rescue of the wounded and the transfer of dead bodies as a result of the ongoing targeting, as was the case in their attempt to transport the wounded and bodies from the city of Ras al-Ain, during the siege by the Turkish-backed factions.

146 civilian casualties, 725 combatant casualties in 30 days

Over that period, 146 civilians fall victim to the indiscriminate shelling and battles waged by Turkey on northern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the number of civilians killed since the beginning of the Turkish military operation has risen to 146, including 7 females and 4 children. The civilian casualties are: 33 as a result of Turkish airstrikes targeting the city of Ras al-Ain, its surroundings and its eastern countryside, and the village of Rihaniya in al-Malikiyah countryside, including a citizen and two local press members. Among the civilian casualties, 28 by bombing and targeting on the city of Ras al-Ain, where the bodies were buried earlier because of the siege on the city, and 40 including a child, a party official, two females and 6 members of the medical teams were shot and executed by Turkish-backed factions on the highway south of the city of Tal Abyad and areas north of Ein Issa and the town of Selouk. In addition, 7 civilians including two employees of the self-administration were killed in the ground shelling on the outskirts of Tel Abyad, and 6 including a child, a woman and two elderly men due to rocket fire at Al-Bashiriya, Qadur bey and Al-Zaytouniya neighborhoods. Also, 5 civilians including a child were killed in shelling on the perimeter and countryside of Ras al-Ain area in Hasakah countryside, 4 by Turkish air strikes on Al-Bajiya village in Tal Abyad area, 3 by sniper in Tal Abyad, and a girl in shelling targeting Al-Qahtaniya countryside. Also, A man was shot by a Turkish sniper in al-Qamishli city, a man was shot by Turkish missiles on the outskirts of Qasr Deeb village in al-Malikiyah countryside, in addition to 2 civilians killed in the bombing of pro-Turkish factions at al-Farat village north of Manbij city, and a female child was killed by rocket shelling by the Turkish forces on a village in Ain Issa. Among the civilian victims, A man and his wife by Turkish artillery on “Tal Warda” in “Abu Rasin”, 3 by the Turkish-backed factions artillery on “Anyakel” in “Abu Rasin”, and 7 including two children in a car explosion in Tal Abyad. Also, a civilian died after a Turkish armored vehicle ran over him during a protest refusing the Turkish-Russian joint patrols.

According to the SOHR statistics, the death toll among the Syria Democratic Forces, military councils and internal security forces since the start of the Turkish military operation on Wednesday afternoon have risen to 408. The SOHR also documented the death of 28 members of the regime forces as a result of a missile targeting by the Turkish-backed factions. Meanwhile, the number of deaths among Syrian factions loyal to Ankara and the pro-Turkey cells killed in the attacks and clashes with the SDF during the same period reached 279, including 21 of the cells loyal to Ankara killed in clashes with the SDF, in addition to 10 Turkish soldiers were killed during the battels, amid information about more dead Turks on the Turkish-Syrian border, and the number of those killed is likely to rise due to the high number of wounded, some of them in serious cases. The SOHR also learned that the Turkish-backed factions managed to capture number of the regime forces members.

Turkish-backed factions continue its violations and abuses against civilians and confiscate their houses. Water shortage threaten al-Hasakah

The areas that fall under the control of the Turkish forces and their affiliates are still witnessing catastrophic conditions, in light of the ongoing violations carried out by the members of the so-called “Syrian National Army” against the remaining inhabitants of these areas, especially “Ras Al-Ain”, which witnesses multiple violations against civilians, in an attempt to sow terror and fear into the hearts of the remaining residents to force them to leave. According to sources of the SOHR, in an attempt by Turkish forces and their loyal factions to tighten their grip over all areas under their control; there are intensive violations against civilians in Ras al-Ain and the western villages surrounding the city. Hardly a day passes without these Turkish-backed factions exert pressure and violations against the rest of the population of the city, in order to displace them and force them to leave.

The Syrian Observatory learned from reliable sources that the Turkish-backed factions are confiscating the homes of the displaced people who fled the war in the region. According to the Syrian Observatory, the houses that were confiscated by the Turkish-backed factions were resettled with some of the families of Turkish-backed militants. Not only did these factions confiscate houses of civilians, but they have also confiscated agricultural projects, confiscated and stolen agricultural tractors and fuel tanks. Also, the Syrian Observatory monitored a mass flight of residents of Umm Eshba village in the eastern countryside of Ras al-Ayn, as a result of the inhuman violations perpetrated by members of the “Soqour al-Shamal” faction led by “Abulaila Al-Homsi”. Among the violations carried out by those factions; the SOHR learned that “al-Hamzat squad” are stealing the wheat reserves of “Alia” silos in the countryside of Ras al-Ain, as they transfer all the wheat they steal into Turkey, resulting in an almost complete lack of bread in the city. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has learned through reliable sources that the pro-Turkish factions have changed the name of “Roj” Hospital into “Ras al-Ain Hospital”, where they obscured everything related to the old name of the hospital and raised new signs.

Sources of the Syrian Observatory monitored continuous violations against civilians, where the sources confirmed that these violations are aimed to force those who remain in the region to leave, especially with the spread of the phenomenon of detention without reasons and under the pretexts and malicious accusations, in addition to the widespread phenomenon of kidnapping citizens in order to force relatives to pay ransoms in exchange for their release, similar to the ongoing violations against civilians in Afrin since the its fall under the control of Turkish forces and Turkish-backed factions within the Operation “Olive Branch” launched by Turkey in January 2018. “Gunmen of Jaysh al-Islam were seen during their participation in the Turkish military operation ‘Peace Spring’ within the factions of the so-called National Army”, sources told the SOHR, “Members of the faction were seen wandering in Ras al-Ain with Turkish support and protection. They were making fun of and mocking the owner of a small shop who remained at the town. They took over the shop, and the goal of all this is to scare and sow panic in the hearts of the villagers”.

According to reliable sources, Ras al-Ain is witnessing catastrophic cases of violations, and there is no single house left unaffected by these abuses and atrocities committed against civilians who remained in the city. Even the Syrian Red Cross teams are banned from entering the city to provide assistance. There is also a major crisis in drinking water, where citizens are buying water in exchange of huge sums of money. “Alouk water station in Ras al-Ain covers a large number of areas with drinking water, including the city of al-Hasakah, which is crowded with displaced people fleeing the Turkish military operation, but the station stopped working, and three engineers were arrested, which led to catastrophic conditions in al-Hasakah. The self-administration in the city is working to solve it by activating the dam water, but it is not drinkable because of the lack of sterilization devices, which forced the people to buy Water”.

On November 3, the SOHR reported that it had learned that the “al-Mu’tasim Division” participating in Operation “Paece Spring” was committing a number of violations in Ras al-Ain in the countryside of al-Hasakah province. Sources told the SOHR that elements of “al-Mu’tasim Division” took over the homes of citizens. “Phrases were seen written on the doors of the homes reading ‘reserved’, as a guide for the rest of the factions so as not to fall into the problems of sharing the spoils”. On November 2, the Syrian Observatory released an audio recording of a Turkish-backed faction talking about looting the homes of citizens in areas under their control. “We are talking about an army that calls itself (national) but it far away from being national. We are talking about a battle, and therefore the defense minister should have spoken with the Turkish ally to clarify some points, including the prisoners of the battle that should be prisoners of the army. The ally is not allowed to interfere with regard to them. In this way, this army is more like a mercenary who is fighting only for money and is not entitled to talk. There are two types of mercenaries, a mercenary fighting for money and a mercenary fighting for the theft of his people. This is the stage of vileness. A mercenary whose livelihood is the theft of the houses of his people, which he calls spoils. This is a precedent in the history of mercenary in the whole world. This is not the responsibility of the defense minister alone, but also of the factions’ leaders, because instead of clarifying all matters, they only talk about their potential and write reports against each other. Members of the factions were killed because of these reports. The blame is not on Turkey, it is on the defense minister, the Prime minister and the factions’ leaders,” it could be heard in the audio recording.

A number of residents of Ras Al-Ain had sent a distress to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, to highlight the intransigence and suffering they suffer on the hands of the Turkish-backed factions, where the families asserted that they tried to return to their homes and villages, but the Turkish-backed factions stopped them at a checkpoint Tal Halaf, prevented them from crossing and asked them whether they were Kurds or Arabs, amid reports of forced displacement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to areas controlled by Operation “Peace Spring”. Reliable sources told the SOHR that “there are thousands of displaced people who have come from the border areas to Raqqa, and the displacement movement continues so far due to Turkish violations, where loyalist factions carry out kidnappings, theft, pillage and looting. There are tremendous violations against civilians, including for example the confiscation of citizens’ vehicles to ask for a ransom of two million liras to be returned to their owner. After they are returned, the owner will have to remove them from the area in a short time, otherwise it will be detained again by another faction, so the owner will have to pay another ransom”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its commitment to reveal developments in the humanitarian, military and political situation within the north-eastern region of Syria in accordance with recent developments on the map of the conflict. While revealing details of what is happening in northern Syria; the Syrian Observatory reiterates its appeal to all parties to pressure Turkey to ensure that there is no demographic change in the area controlled by the Operation “Peace Spring” factions, as well as to ensure that the property of residents in the areas is not stolen or looted, in light of the frequent reports of looting taking place in the region. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also renews its appeals to the international community and the concerned organizations to intervene immediately to save the remaining residents of Ras al-Ain and to stop the series of violations committed by the factions belonging to the so-called “Syrian National Army” against the Syrian people in the areas under the control of its factions. The SOHR also renews its call on the concerned organizations to investigate violations against civilians, which violates international laws, conventions and international conflict treaties.

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