“Peace Spring” areas in November 2020 | Over 65 fatalities…deteriorating security…escalating violations by Turkish-backed factions against residents
In a country exhausted and shaken by a protracted civil war, Turkish-backed factions are portraying the worst and ugliest images of crimes against humanity, violating international laws and charters in areas under their control known as “Peace Spring”, as well as in the “Olive Branch” areas. Those areas experience mounting violations against human rights in return for accomplishing specific economic and political objectives through exploiting the region’s bounties, resources and people.
The Syrian Observatory has monitored and tracked such violations committed in November 2020, including security incidents, rivalries and the Turkish-backed factions’ atrocities.
It is worth noting that 66 people were killed in “Peace Spring” areas in November, including four civilians killed in different incidents of direct gunfire and explosions. While the rest, 62 fatalities, were of fighters of Turkish-backed factions, and they were distributed as follows:
- Three fighters were killed in factional rivalries.
- Six fighters were killed in explosions of IEDs, landmines and booby-trapped cars and motorcycles.
- 53 fighters were killed in attacks by unknown gunmen and SDF in clashes on frontlines and during the factions’ infiltration operations into SDF-held areas.
Routine disputes and armed fights with unprecedented high death toll
On November 24, “Peace Spring” areas experienced an unprecedented death toll among the Turkish-backed factions following the ambush in SDF-controlled areas in Ain Issa in northern Al-Raqqah, as 31 militiamen were killed while sneaking into Mu’alaq village nearby Ain Issa as a result of an ambush carried out by SDF using landmines, before SDF withdrew from their positions. That was the highest death toll ever among Ankara-backed fighters in a single operation since Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured the region over 13 months ago.
On the other hand, clashes and fights among the factions in “Peace Spring” areas escalate from time to time, triggering instability and security chaos which pose an additional threat to the lives of residents there. It is worth noting that three militiamen were killed in November because of factional rivalries. The factions’ disputes over revenue-sharing and looting public and private properties have been the main reasons behind such repeated clashes. One example, among many, was the clashes which erupted in early November between Sultan Murad Division and members of the 20th Division over the seizure of several houses in Ras Al-Ain city. The clashes, this time, left one militiaman dead and several others injured, and caused panic among civilians. Also, Tal Abyad city witnessed violent clashes on November 4 between “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyya” and “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah”.
Successive explosions and relative increase in civilian death toll
As security situation is deteriorating in the region, several successive explosions hit “Peace Spring” areas in November, with just one or two days separating one explosion from another. In this context, SOHR activists documented the death of a civilian and injury of five others on November 2, as a result of an IED explosion in the market of Ras Al-Ain city in north-western Al-Hasakah. An old man was also killed and three others, including a child, were injured in a motorcycle-bomb explosion on November 3, in Ali Bajiliyyah village in Tal Abyad city in northern Al-Raqqah. While on November 5, a car-bomb exploded nearby Al-Zaydi village in Al-Raqqah countryside on M4 international highway.
Escalating arbitrary arrests
“National Army” forces and Turkish-backed factions continue their arbitrary and unjustified arrests and raids on the homes of Syrian civilians that have refused to leave areas.In this context, houses were raided and several people were arrested from the village of Al-Aziziya in western Ras al-Ain countryside, where a young man was shot dead. SOHR sources have reported that the head of the department of raids in Ras al-Ain police was arrested after being accused of “dealing with SDF and corruption”.
On the other hand, women have not been exempted from arrests, as military police arrested several women of Ekaydat tribe, who came from SDF-held areas to visit their relatives in Ras Al-Ain district.
On November 28, SOHR activists said that Turkish-backed factions surrounded the village of al-Qaysariyeh, east of Tel Abyad in the “Peace Spring” areas in northern countryside of Raqqa, arresting four civilians from Al-Hanada tribe for “possessing heavy weapons” in the village, in addition to being accused of killing members of Turkish-backed factions, as part of a security campaign in the region.
On November 30, members of the Al-Jabha al-Shamiya arrested three civilians of al-Mashhura tribe in the city of Tel Abyad for capturing and killing members of the Turkish-backed factions during previous clashes between a group of civilians and Al-Jabha members.
Seizure of civilians’ land and property and imposing levies
Since taking control of the area in October 2019, the National Army Forces and Turkish-backed factions have been committing violations, stealing and looting civilians’ property, including the seizure of land and farms and the stealing agricultural equipment. They also prevented farmers from cultivating their land in villages on the frontlines separating Turkish-backed factions and SDF-held , villages such as Al-Mahmoudiyyah, Aniq Al-Hawa, Al-Qasimiyyah and Al-Rayhaniyyah, near Tal Tamr area in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah.
Moreover, “Al-Hamzaat Division” had seized agricultural land owned by more than 100 families with an area of 30 hectare in Ras al-Ain countryside in the areas of “Peace Spring” in Hasakeh countryside.
According to SOHR sources, the villages captured by the al-Hamzaat Division are: “Qatina, Al-Hardana, Al-Dawiri, Masajid and Tal al-Barm”. Al-Hamzaat Division cultivates civilian land and steals its produce.
On the other hand, people’s complaints and anger are increasing due to the imposition of high levies by the factions. The people of the southern countryside of Ras Al Ain complained of the imposition of levies in unspecified amounts on passers-by at the checkpoints of Um al-Debs, Kua Shallah and Al-Mushirfeh.
Theft of worship places
The places of worship have not been exempt from vandalism and looting, as members of Turkish-backed factions looted the contents of the “Mar Touma” Syriac Church in Churches neighbourhood in Ras al-Ain within the “Peace Spring” areas in Al-Hasakeh countryside. The stolen possessions included metal and copper items and electrical devices.
Overall, this bleak picture will remain in place with the widespread corruption and tyranny of the Ankara-backed factions without any deterrent which could perhaps prevent them from committing further humanitarian crimes against Syrian civilians in the “Peace Spring” areas.
Therefore, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its call to the international community to protect civilians in this area from the systematic practices and violations of the factions, such as theft, murder, looting, arrest and kidnapping.