“Peace Spring” areas in November 2021 | Four factional battles leave casualties, International Coalition “airlift operation”
Human rights violations have been worsening in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah, known as “Peace Spring” areas since they were captured in October 2019. These forces’ aim is to accomplish specific economic and political objectives through exploiting the region’s bounties, resources and people.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all developments and violations committed in “Peace Spring” areas in November 2021.
In November, five people were killed in “Peace Spring” areas, and were as follows:
• A fighter in National Army found killed in a shooting inside his house in Ras AL-Ain City.
• A member of Turkey-backed faction was killed by mistake while he was playing with his weapon inside one the Turkish forces training camps in Tal Abyad city.
• A leader of Sohadaa Badr Brigade was killed in a shooting by a member of Al-Hamzah Division in Al-Mokhtalah village in Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) countryside.
• A member of Al-Hamzah Division was killed in factional battle near the silos of Ras Al-Ain (Sere kanyea) city.
• A member of Al-Hamzah Division was killed by gunmen of the same faction near the silos of Ras Al-Ain (Sere kanyea) city.
Factional tensions and clashes
Four factional fights broke out in “Peace Spring” areas for different reasons, and were as follows:
On November 8, SOHR activists reported that members of the Turkish-backed Al-Majd Corps ambushed vehicles of the military police near Tel Vender village in the western countryside of Tel Abyad in “Peace Spring” areas in northern Al-Raqqah province, after a column of the military police had entered areas under the control of Al-Majd Corps. The attack left several members of military police injured and destroyed three vehicles.
On November 11, SOHR sources reported clashes among groups of Turkish-backed factions in “Peace Spring” areas in Al-Raqqah countryside. According to SOHR sources, members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah and A-Sham Corps clashed with medium and heavy weapons in Ain Issa, Sherkirek, Hammam Al-Turkman in the northern countryside of Al-Raqqah.
This happened when members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah were attempting to seize the headquarters of “Liwaa Al-Khattab” operating under the banner of Al-Sham Corps and the headquarters of a group affiliated to the same faction led by a commander called “Abu Jihad”.
The clashes left several people injured, including a civilian, in Sherkirek village, while seven members of “Liwaa al-Khattab” were injured in clashes in Hammam Al-Turkman town.
Moreover, Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah had arrested three members of “Liwaa Al-Khattab” while they were attempting to break into a mill in Hammam Al-Turkman in Tel Abyad countryside.
Also, seven members of “Liwaa Al-Khattab” were wounded in clashes in Al-Turkman village while another member belonging to the same faction beat a civilian brutally because he confronted entering his house while the factional members attempted to break into the mill in the same area.
Meanwhile, a commander of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah threatened to capture the headquarters of Al-Sham Corps and expel its members from the region.
On November 12, SOHR activists reported violent clashed took place among armed groups affiliated to Turkey-backed Al-Hamzah Division near silos of Ras Al-Ain (Sere kanyea) within Peace Spring areas in Al-Hasakah countryside. Reasons of the clashes remained unknown till now.
The clashes renewed among groups belonging to Al-Hamzah Division on November 15.
Ongoing violations continue in Peace Spring areas
On November 3, SOHR sources reported that militiamen of factions of the Turkish-backed “National Army” traveling in a pickup truck have kidnapped three women, while they were waiting in front of a clinic in Suluk town in Tel Abyad countryside “Kere Sibi” in northern Al-Raqqah, in “Peace Spring” areas. The incident took place in full view of the town’s residents who dared not interfere to save the women who were kidnapped for unknown reason.
On November 23, SOHR sources reported that an armed group affiliated to “Al-Sham Corps” which is close to Turkish Intelligence sold silos in Al-Manajeer village in Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) in Al-Hasakah province, as scrap to a scrap dealer known as “Al-Safarani”. Meanwhile, the workshops belonging to “Al-Safarani” started to dismantle the silos.
According to SOHR sources Al-Safarani’s workshops had dismantled the reserve generator of Al-Manajeer bread bakery a few days earlier. The bakery is the second largest bread bakery in that region, while parts made of copper of the dismantled generator were sold with green light by al-Sham Corps.
The same workshops had also dismantled Ras Al-Ain water station and sold its contents.
On November 25, SOHR activists reported that factions of the Turkish-backed “National Army” stole “electricity poles” in villages in the eastern countryside of Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniye).
Members of “Jaish Al-Islam and Al-Hamza division” removed the electricity poles remained in the villages of Merikis, Bab Al-Khair, Um Oshbah, and Daoudiya and transported them to their headquarters with the aim to get electricity from Allouk station to their headquarters, according to SOHR sources.
Moreover, these factions stole electrical wires from several houses in this area and forced residents to bring electricity wires to their posts.
Popular discontent and protests
On November 1, SOHR activists documented a demonstration staged by dozens of civilians from Ras Al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) near the vicinity of Dawar Al-Jouzah in the city which is under the control of Turkish-backed faction. The demonstrators protested the deteriorating living situation and shortage of bread, and demanded prosecuting members of the city’s local council.
The demonstrators also called for the toppling of the council and securing the needed basic essentials. Meanwhile, the civil police dispersed the protests by force, before the protesters headed to the border crossing with Turkey, chanting slogans such as “down with the local council”, and “corrupt officials should send to justice.”
On November 2, SOHR sources reported that residents staged a demonstration in Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye) in northern Al-Hasakah, protesting the dire living situation and calling for sacking corrupt officials of Ras Al-Ain Council. Meanwhile, the civil police beat some of the demonstrators and threatened to arrest them.
Accordingly, the dignitaries and tribes’ elders of Ras Al-Ain issued a statement directed to the leadership of the Turkish forces in Ankara. The statement, of which the Syrian Observatory obtained a copy, reads “we, the dignitaries and tribes’ elders of Ras Al-Ain, took part in a demonstration today, protesting the dire living conditions in our city, and we lifted placards with slogans showing our rightful demands in light of the deteriorating conditions following the Local Council’s recent decisions raising the price of bread to the double. After the demonstrators had gathered near Dawar Al-Jouzah, we were surprised by the arrival of members of the civil police who started to beat the demonstrators brutally. After the civil police’s attack, the translator of the Wali, Mostafa Aqsoy, came to beat the demonstrators and expel them from the perimeter of the Local Council. Accordingly, we call upon the leadership of the Turkish forces in Ankara for the following:
• Holding the Wali in charge of Ras al-Ain city accountable over the deteriorating living situation.
• Sacking Mostafa Aqsoy, the Wali’s translator.
• Toppling the local council of Ras Al-Ain city and electing a new council of qualified experts who can improve the living situation.
• Increasing the humanitarian supplies provided to the people.
• Providing projects for the improvement of service in our city.”
US-led International Coalition airlift operation
On November 3, Reliable sources reported that helicopters of the International Coalition, headed by US forces, entered areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions, on November 2, where special airlift operations were carried out in Hawarna neighbourhood in Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye), near the Syria-Turkey border, and in Allouk village.
According to SOHR sources, International Coalition Forces airlifted three people, a Saudi national, an Australian and a Syrian from Al-Raqqah province, and Ras Al-Ain city, while three other people were extracted from Allouk village to the north of Ras Al-Ain city. The evacuated individuals had been serving among “Islamic State” ranks during its control of north and east Syria.
Sources told SOHR that the evacuated individuals worked for the International Coalition as “informants”, after the elimination of ISIS in that region. These individuals later joined the Turkish-backed faction of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah in “Peace Spring” areas and continued communicating with the Coalition, as they provided the Coalition with coordinates of locations jihad commanders who had served in the ranks of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in order to target them.
It is worth noting that this cell comprised nine members distributed in scattered areas under the control of “Peace Spring” operations room. However, the six people who had been evacuated during this operation were the most prominent members who run the cell.
This complex operation had been conducted after coordination between the International Coalition and Turkish forces, while it was believed that the helicopters that carried out the extractions entered Syria from the military airbase of Incirlik in Turkey.
During the operation, Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah group coordinated with Turkish Intelligence to storm the headquarters of the that cell, whose members cooperated and communicated with the Coalition base in Al-Omar oil field, nearby Suluk town in northern Al-Raqqah, on the Syria-Turkey border, in order to arrest the remaining members who were from Deir Ezzor province.
Turkish Intelligence accepted to coordinate with Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah and launched a military operation on these headquarters in order to cover the coordination between Turkish forces and International Coalition, after the cell had been uncovered by Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah. Turkish Intelligence also aimed to portray a good image about its forces before the factions, pretending that they had never coordinated with International Coalition Forces.
Conditions the Peace Spring areas have been deteriorating since the Turkish intervention and the control of the Ankara-backed factions over the region. SOHR renews its calls to the international community to intervene and protect civilians in those areas from the systematic practices and abuses of the factions that range from robberies, murders, arrests and kidnapping, to demographic change and cultural and archaeological vandalism.