The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Military escalation | New infiltration attempt into SDF positions in Ain Issa, and Turkish forces shell the area

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored clashes near the “M4” road in western countryside of Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, between Ankara-backed factions and the Syrian Democratic Forces, following an infiltration attempt into SDF positions.

The clashes accompanied by exchange of fire, amid confirmed reports of casualties. Meanwhile, Turkish forces and proxy factions shelled places in the area of Ain Issa, and several shells fell near a Russian post in the area.

Yesterday, the Syrian Observatory published a report on the recent military escalation. The Turkish forces and their proxy factions have been stepping up their military operations for a month or more, in the area of Ain Issa and surrounding villages, which are under the control of the SDF and host regime forces’ posts.

The Turkish forces and their proxy factions are carrying out intensive rocket attacks on an almost daily basis, in addition to infiltration attempts by the factions.

The Turkish bombardment is concentrated on the town of Ain Issa and its surroundings and outskirts and the villages of Salloum, Sayda, Ma’alaq, Debs, Kobarlik al-Khalidiya, Hoshan, Kor Hassan Ali and Istirahat Al-Saqr on the M4 international road.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored the displacement of more than 7,000 civilians from the region over the last month in light of the major Turkish escalation and fears of an imminent military operation by Turkish forces and proxy factions.

Ain Issa’s population is estimated at 11,000, of whom 4,500 have been displaced over the last month, mostly towards Raqqa city, while the population of the villages under bombardment is estimated at 5,000, of whom 2,500 were forced to flee during the same period.

The Turkish escalation comes in full sight of Russian troops which are present in Ain Issa and have a military base there, and stand ildy by regarding the escalating Turkish attacks.

This has prompted the civilians to stage two demonstrations since the beginning of the escalation during the first days of last November, denouncing Russia’s silence.

The first demonstration was on the 18th of last month, where the residents staged a vigil near the Russian military base in Ain Issa, while the second was on November 25.

Turkish forces have not only stepped up military operation, but established on 19th of last month a new military base in Tamameeh village in rural Ain Issa, nearly two kilometres away from Ain Issa, bringing in logistical supplies and building materials, which has increased the fears among residents of the area.

In light of recent developments in the region, a Russian officer and other regime officers met, on December 2, with commanders of Syria Democratic Forces at the Russian military base in Ain Issa in northern Al-Raqqah. According to SOHR sources, the Russian forces installed thermographic cameras on Ain Issa base, just after the meeting.

SOHR had shed light on the strategic importance of Ain Issa district, which could be materialized in its important junction linking between Aleppo and Al-Hasakah, via the international highway “M4” which runs through the district. Ain Issa is also distinguished by its local routes to Tal Abyad city on the Syria-Turkey border and Al-Raqqah city. Such important junction justifies SDF tenacious defence of Ain Issa.

Moreover, the “Autonomous Administration” established large number of civil installations, constructions and affiliated councils, after the International Coalition had set up its military base in 2016.

It is worth noting that SDF, backed by the International Coalition, captured Ain Issa in mid 2015 after fierce clashes against ISIS. Furthermore, Ain Issa, which hosts training camps and important command centres and headquarters of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) and SDF, is the capital of the “Autonomous Administration” in north-eastern Syria region.