“Olive Branch” areas in November 2022 | 21 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests…69 human rights violations…3rd Corps redeployed on the outskirts of strategic village of Kafr Jannah
SOHR calls on the international community to intervene immediately and protect civilians from systematic violations by Turkish-backed factions
Since Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured several areas in north-western Aleppo, namely Afrin canton, after a military operation known as “Olive Branch”, humanitarian crises have been emerging and worsening gradually, with violations, attacks and explosions occurring almost daily. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked prominent developments and gross violations in these areas in November 2022, which can be summarised in the following main points:
Acts of violence leave fatalities
In October, SOHR documented the death of four people in areas under the control of Turkish forces and factions operating under the banner of “Olive Branch” operation room in the north-western countryside of Aleppo and surrounding villages which are controlled by Kurdish forces. A breakdown of fatalities is as follows:
-Three civilians, including a child:
- A man in his forties was found dead with gunshot wounds and dumped near the river in Afrin city.
- A young man was killed with a gunshot fired by mistake from his gun, while he was cleaning it.
- A child died of the wounds he had sustained in the explosion of an unexploded projectile near Fallah camp in Al-Ashrafiyah neighbourhood in Afrin city.
-One combatant: A member of Al-Amshat Division was killed in violent clashes with heavy and medium between Al-Amshat Division and Kurdish forces in Deir Meshmesh village in Shirawa district in Afrin countryside in north-western Aleppo.
Explosions and infightings
“Olive Branch” area witnessed no infightings in November 2022. However, one explosion took place in that region on November 25 when a child died of the wounds he had sustained in the explosion of an unexploded projectile near Fallah camp in Al-Ashrafiyah neighbourhood in Afrin city.
Ongoing heinous crimes and violations
As Turkish-backed factions continue their blatant violations on a daily basis against the residents who have chosen to stay in their areas over displacement and against people displaced to Afrin canton, SOHR has documented 21 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of civilians by factions of the “National Army,” military police and Turkish intelligence. These cases included two kidnaps, while a civilian was released after having paid a ransom of 200 USD.
Furthermore, SOHR has documented over 69 other violations distributed as follows:
-11 incidents of seizure and selling of displaced people’s houses which had been forcibly seized earlier by Turkish-backed factions. The houses were sold at low prices and in US dollars in particular.
-13 incidents of imposition of levies on civilians by factions, the most prominent of which are as follows:
- Al-Amshat Division imposed levies on olive pressers and traders in areas under its control in Sheikh Hadeed and Ma’batli districts in Afrin countryside, where a levy of 1,000 USD was imposed on every presser and another of 2,500 USD was imposed on every olive merchant.
- Sultan Murad faction imposed a monthly levy of 200 USD on the owners of internet companies.
- Jaysh Al-Nukhba faction imposed levies on the residents of Sheikhotka village in Ma’batli district in Afrin countryside, where everyone in the village had to give the faction a 20-litre tin of olive oil.
- Jaysh Al-Nukhba faction forced every farmer in the same village to pay a share of ten percent of olive harvest, before harvesting their crops, threatening to imprison everyone refusing to pay the levy.
-17 incidents of felling fruit-bearing trees by factions of Turkish-backed “National Army,” where over 2,224 olive trees were cut down in several areas in villages and districts of Afrin.
-22 thefts carried out by “National Army” factions, including the looting of the harvest of nearly 728 olive trees in Afrin. The thefts also included the hijacking of a civil car belonging to a displaced civilian from Aleppo city by Al-Hamza Division. The man was taken to Kafr Sheel village in Afrin countryside, and he filed a complaint against the faction, but to no avail. In addition, nearly ten 20-litre tins were taken by force from a woman from Qazlbash village in Bulbul district under the pretext of “protecting agricultural crops from being stolen.
-Three incidents of seizure of olive farmlands by the factions of Al-Muntaser Bellah, Suqour Al-Shamal and Jaysh Al-Nukhbah which operate under the banner of the Turkish-backed “National Army” in villages and districts in Afrin canton in the north-western countryside of Aleppo.
SOHR also documented three assaults by various factions of the “National Army” in November; further details are as follows:
- November 12: Al-Sham Corps severely beat a young man from Al-Tremsah village in Hama countryside and took him to the notorious Isaka prison for “herding sheep near a military post in Brad village in Shirawa district.”
- November 12: Members of Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah faction led by a man from Deir Ezzor city known by his initials as A. A. K. beat the elder of Hajj Iskandar village in Jendires district, in Afrin countryside, north-west of Aleppo as the village’s elder refused to pay levies to Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah members. According to SOHR sources, two members of Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah faction stormed the house of the village’s elder, stole several olive oil tins and severely beat him. The elder of the village was taken to the hospital.
- November 15: Members of Al-Hamza Division severely beat a resident of Kafr Sheel in Afrin countryside with iron bars, which resulted in fractures and wounds. The civilian was taken to hospital for treatment. This came after the civilian had expelled robbers affiliated with Al-Hamza Division from a pomegranate field on the outskirts of the village.
3rd Corps redeployed on the outskirts of Kafr Jannah village
On November 10, residents went out on protests near Al-Qoban Square in the centre of Afrin city within “Olive Branch” area and called for a central demonstration on the following day, demanding the expelling of HTS from the city, amid chanting against HTS. Moreover, activists called for mobile protests starting from A’zaz city to Afrin in Aleppo countryside, to pressure HTS to leave areas of Afrin. These protests came in light of the deployment of HTS members today near Al-Qoban Square and closure of roads leading to one of the camps of Ahrar Al-Sham in Tarnada village in Afrin countryside, following suspension of several brigades and battalions of Ahrar Al-Sham led by Amer Al-Shaikh, who is affiliated to HTS, and committing to work under the new leadership of Yussif Al-Hamawy.
On the following day, November 11, hundreds of residents in cars and vehicles participated in a mass protest which set off from Azaz city in northern Aleppo to Afrin canton where the protestors met with another mass protest. Meanwhile, the protestors lifted the flags of the Syrian Revolution and placards with slogans written on them against Abu Mohammad Al-Julani, the leader of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, and they calling for the expulsion of HTS from the area. No skirmishes or arrests were reported during the protests.
While on November 21, the 3rd Corps which operates under the banner of the Turkish-backed “National Army” were redeployed in areas near the building of the “Defence Ministry” of the “Interim Government” and at the entrance of Kafr Jannah village in Sharran district in Afrin countryside in northern Aleppo.
Meanwhile, militiamen of the same faction were deployed at military posts on the outskirts of Kafr Jannah and Qatma villages, after having been handed over by the 2nd Corps.
According to SOHR sources, the redeployment of the 3rd Corps has been confined to the outskirts of those villages, as the faction’s members are prevented from entering residential neighbourhoods, under a new agreement whose details and parts taking part in it have not been declared so far.
This came over a month after the 3rd Corps took control of Kafr Jannah village in Sharran district in Afrin countryside, after having been captured by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham which handed it over to the 3rd Corps.
It seems that violations in “Olive Branch” areas will not stop as long as Turkish forces and their proxies keep breaching all international laws and charters, while no party or international or regional player is exhibiting any willingness to put an end to these “grave” violations, despite SOHR’s repeated warnings about the dreadful humanitarian situation in the region.