The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Turkey’s presence in Syria in 2023 | Aerial and ground attacks by Turkish forces leave 72 civilians and nearly 140 combatants dead

Turkish forces continue their operations in Syria under the pretext of “securing the Turkish border with Syria, countering the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and guaranteeing agreements.” Ankara has frequently issued press releases claiming that those agreements, especially the agreement which led to the establishment of the so-called “Putin-Erdogan” area, aim at protecting Syrians from the Syrian regime’s oppression. However, all developments on the ground improve that these claims are completely untrue, as the Turkish intervention and military operations in Syria have caused nothing but destruction, while all Turkish-Russian deals have only served the Syrian regime and Turkey’s interests.

 

2023’s developments are unrefuted evidence of the fact that the Turkish intervention in Syria has been a major source of bloodshed. Since early 2023, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented the death of 72 Syrian civilians: nine children, eight women and 55 young and adult men, in gunfire by Turkish guard forces (Jandarma) and aerial and ground attacks by Turkish forces, including airstrikes by fighter jets and drones.

 

Also, those attacks, which took place in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration, areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed and other areas in Idlib, Al-Hasakah and Aleppo, left 139 combatants dead.

 

On the other hand, ten Turkish soldiers were killed in acts of violence in Syria in 2023.

 

In this report, SOHR highlights full details of Turkish operations and attacks in Syria in 2023, which can be summarised in the following main points:

 

 

Escalation in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration

 

Different positions throughout areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria experience military escalation by Turkish forces, which manifested in almost-daily artillery attacks and gunfire by ground forces and airstrikes by drones and fighter jets on positions in Al-Raqqah, Al-Hasakah and Aleppo. This escalation coincides with frequent statements by Ankara about immanent military operation in north-east Syria.

 

The Syrian Observatory has monitored and tracked key movements and operations by Turkish forces in SDF-controlled areas in 2023, documenting the death of 37 civilians, including six children and seven women, as well as the death of 109 combatants, all killed in Turkish military operations and attacks.

 

 

Ground attacks

 

Turkish forces fired thousands of rockets and artillery shells on positions in over 80 areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration in Aleppo, Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah. Turkish ground attacks in SDF-controlled areas in 2023 left 21 fatalities: nine civilians, including two women and four children, and 12 SDF fighters.

 

The monthly distribution of fatalities in Turkish ground attacks is as follows:

 

  • January: One SDF fighter.

 

  • February: No fatalities documented.

 

  • March: Two SDF fighters.

 

  • April: No fatalities documented.

 

  • May: Two civilians and one SDF fighter.

 

  • June: No fatalities documented.

 

  • July: Four SDF fighters.

 

  • August: Three civilians: a woman and her two children.

 

  • September: One civilian.

 

  • October: Three civilians: two children and a woman, and three SDF fighters.

 

  • November: No fatalities documented.

 

  • December: One SDF fighter.

 

 

Drone attacks

 

SOHR documented 155 airstrikes carried out by Turkish drones in SDF-controlled areas in 2023, which left 97 fatalities:

 

  • 27 civilians, including two children, four women and three civilian officials of the Autonomous Administration, including a female.

 

  • 67 combatants of military formations operating in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration, including two commanders.

 

  • Three regime soldiers.

 

In addition, over 107 people sustained various injures in these airstrikes.

 

Turkish drone attacks in SDF-controlled areas in 2023 are distributed regionally as follows:

 

  • Al-Hasakah: 105 attacks left 64 fatalities: 24 civilians, including five women and two children, and 40 combatants, including commanders.

 

  • Al-Raqqah: Three attack left no fatalities.

 

  • Aleppo countryside: 47 attacks left three civilians, three regime soldiers and 27 combatants dead.

 

Here is a monthly breakdown of airstrikes by Turkish drones in SDF-controlled areas in 2023:

 

  • January: Eight airstrikes left seven fatalities: three civilians, including a child and a woman, and four SDF fighters.

 

  • February: Two airstrikes left three fatalities: two civilians and one SDF fighters.

 

  • March: No drone attacks were documented.

 

  • April: Two airstrikes left three SDF fighters dead.

 

  • May: Four airstrikes left nine fatalities: one civilian, five SDF fighters and three regime soldiers.

 

  • June: Ten airstrikes left 19 fatalities: four civilians, including two women, and 15 SDF fighters.

 

  • July: Three airstrikes left eight fatalities: a civilian woman and 7 SDF fighters.

 

  • August: 16 airstrikes left five fatalities: one civilian and four SDF fighters.

 

  • September: Five airstrikes left eight fatalities: one civilian and seven SDF fighters.

 

  • October: 44 airstrikes left 17 fatalities: four civilians, including a child, and 13 SDF fighters.

 

  • November: Ten airstrikes left seven fatalities: one civilian and six SDF fighters.

 

  • December: 51 airstrikes left 11 fatalities: nine civilians, including two women, and two SDF fighters.

 

 

Airstrikes by fighter jets

 

Turkish fighter jets executed over 37 airstrikes in SDF-controlled areas in 2023, all documented in October, targeting vehicles, posts and different positions. These airstrikes left 31 fatalities; they are as follows:

 

  • 30 members of Asayish Forces were killed in an airstrike on Kojrat village in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • A civilian was killed in an airstrike on a station in Al-Qahtaniyah.

 

In addition, these airstrikes left 53 others injured.

 

It is worth noting that the Turkish president, Receb Tayyip Erdogan, announced, on October 9, that the large-scale military operation by Turkish aircraft resulted in the destruction of 194 targets in Syria and Iraq.

 

Beside the targeted military posts, SOHR sources confirmed that over 50 sites of civilian properties and vital infrastructure were attacked by Turkish aircraft, some targeted by several strikes. Those sites included two hospitals, a dispensary, grain silos, a vital dam, textile and paint factories, water and power stations and a school. Moreover, tens of populated villages in Al-Hasakah countryside have come under attack during this round of significant military escalation.

 

Ankara’s claim of “fighting terrorism” must not be an excuse to attack infrastructure and properties of Syrian people or kill innocent and unarmed civilians.

 

Here is a list of the non-military sites and infrastructure which came under attack by Turkish fighter jets:

 

  • A military institution of SDF and the Bureau of Finance in Al-Mushayrifah area.

 

  • An oil site in Kardahoul town.

 

  • Sikarka power station.

 

  • Taqal Baqal oil station.

 

  • Khana water station.

 

  • Power station in Al-Malikiyah.

 

  • Vital institutions in Karziru village, Mirka, Miral and Qarrah Joukh mountain in Al-Malikiyah countryside.

 

  • The COVID hospital in Al-Malikiyah countryside.

 

  • The industrial area in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • The headquarters of “Star” radio station.

 

  • The surrounding areas of Rouj camp.

 

  • The paint plant in Ain Al-Arab.

 

  • The textile plant in Amuda.

 

  • Grain silos on the eastern outskirts of Amuda city.

 

  • A site near the sports hall in Kobani city.

 

  • The COVID hospital in Ain Al-Arab.

 

  • Oudah oil company near Al-Qahtaniyah.

 

  • A site near Taqal Baqal station in Al-Malikiyah countryside.

 

  • Kardahoul oil station in Al-Qahtaniyah countryside.

 

  • Hammah water station in northern Al-Hasakah.

 

  • A water station in Al-Rakbah village in Tel Tamr countryside.

 

  • An oil institution in Kardahoul town in Al-Qahtaniyah.

 

  • The power station in Alat Qaws village in Al-Jawadiyah (Jal Agha).

 

  • Al-Sadd Al-Gharbi power station, which feeds large areas in Al-Hasakah city and countryside with electricity.

 

  • Car repair shop in Sarin

 

  • A power station on Al-Hizam Al-Gharbi road near COVID hospital in Al-Qamishli.

 

  • Al-Sa’idah oil station in Al-Qahtaniyah town.

 

  • Al-Oudah oil stations in Al-Qahtaniyah town.

 

  • A power station in Kharab Askar.

 

  • A dispensary in Milsoun neighbourhood in the east of Al-Qamishli city.

 

  • A power station in Amuda.

 

  • An oil institution near the power station.

 

  • The surrounding areas of Al-Oudah oil stations.

 

  • An ice-block plant on the international highway.

 

  • The gas station in Al-Suwaidiya in Al-Qamishli countryside.

 

  • Sikarka power station.

 

  • Two power stations in Al-Qahtaniyah and Al-Qamishli on Al-Hizam road.

 

  • Mazkaft dam in Al-Qamishly countryside.

 

  • An oil station affiliated to Al-Oudah oil stations in eastern Al-Qahtaniyah.

 

  • The oil stations of Hamz-bek, Qarjukh and Ar’aor in Al-Malikiyah countryside (Dayrek).

 

In late December, Turkish drones unleashed fierce campaign in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration, executing 48 airstrikes: 36 on Al-Qamishli in Al-Hasakah countryside and 12 on Ain Al-Arab (Kobani) in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. Those airstrikes, which blatantly violate the protection of human rights laws, targeted vital institutions and infrastructure and left 20 civilians dead and wounded.

 

During this campaign, Turkish drones attacked the following sites:

 

Al-Hasakah

 

  • A centre for distributing cement in Shurak town.

 

  • A centre of SADCOP (Storing and Distributing Co., Petroleum Products).

 

  • The vicinity of the Covid-19 hospital.

 

  • A centre near Al-Alayah prison which hosts ISIS prisoners.

 

  • Qanat Al-Suez bridge in Qamishli.

 

  • Outposts of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) at Na’matli checkpoint.

 

  • A checkpoint of Asayish Forces at the entrance of Al-Hasakah.

 

  • A civilian house in Al-Darbasiyah.

 

  • The house of a leader in the Kurdish National Council in Al-Darbasiyah.

 

  • An institution for distributing cement in Shurak village in eastern Al-Qamishli.

 

  • A centre of SADCOP in Qanat Al-Suez neighbourhood in eastern Al-Qamishli.

 

  • A site near the Covid-19 hospital.

 

  • A security post near the prison which hosts ISIS prisoners in Al-Alayah neighbourhood.

 

  • Prefabricated rooms near Na’matli checkpoint.

 

  • The silos in Al-Tobiyah village near Rumaylan town.

 

  • A site of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) in Haram Al-Sheikh village.

 

  • “Judi” factory which is located to the east of Karbawai village in Al-Qamishli countryside.

 

  • A site in the north of Al-Qamishli city.

 

  • A site in Haram Shikhu village which is located between Amuda town and Al-Qamishli city.

 

  • The power plant in Milson neighbourhood.

 

  • A post behind the railway station in Antiriyah neighbourhood.

 

  • “Semaf” print shop in the west of Al-Qamishly city.

 

  • A construction centre in the east of Al-Qamishly city, near COVID hospital.

 

  • The railway station.

 

  • A site near the bureau of SADCOP for storing and distributing diesel in Al-Alayah neighbourhood in Al-Qamishli city in Al-Hasakah countryside, near the prison which hosts ISIS prisoners.

 

  • Another site in Al-Alayah neighbourhood in Al-Qamishli city.

 

  • The cement plant in the east of Al-Qamishly city.

 

  • A mill in the east of Al-Qamishly city.

 

  • “Al-Shamal” company nearby the silos in Qanat Al-Suez neighbourhood.

 

  • A wedding hall in Amudah town in Al-Qamishli countryside.

 

  • A wheat sorting machine in the west of Amudah town in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • An asphalt mixer and rock crusher near Shurak village in Al-Qamishli countryside.

 

  • A cotton warehouse near Al-Qamishli.

 

  • A position of SADCOP in Al-Qamishli.

 

  • A detergent factory near Al-Falaheen petrol station in Al-Qamishli.

 

  • The kidney hospital.

 

 

Aleppo

 

  • A construction company belonging to the Autonomous Administration in Ain Al-Arab city (Kobani) in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

 

  • A site near Fayan hospital.

 

  • The dispensary of Mashtal Al-Nour.

 

  • Fodder plant.

 

  • A centre of bread bakeries.

 

  • A checkpoint of Asayish Forces in Ain Al-Arab (Kobani).

 

 

Kurdish and regime-controlled areas

 

SOHR documented the death of 28 people in bombardment and airstrikes by Turkish forces in 2023 in areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed in the northern countryside of Aleppo; they are as follows:

 

  • A civilian was killed in bombardment by ground forces.

 

  • A Russian soldier was killed in bombardment by ground forces.

 

  • 15 regime soldiers: nine killed in bombardment by ground forces and six killed in drone attacks.

 

  • 11 Kurdish fighters: seven killed in bombardment by ground forces and four killed in drone attacks.

 

It is worth noting that Turkish drones executed 16 attacks on areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed in north Aleppo countryside in 2023, precisely since June 10. These attacks left many casualties; they are distributed as follows:

 

  • Four members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were killed and five others were injured.

 

  • Six members of regime forces were killed and 18 others, including an officer, were injured.

 

  • Three civilians were injured.

 

 

Violent pushback by Turkish Jandarma

 

As Ankara closes its border crossings for the crossing of civilians and allows the entry of weapons and military equipment to kill more Syrians, Turkish boarder guards (Jandarma) continue attacking everyone approaching the border strip, mostly civilians attempting to flee from the war and its scourages and searching for a safe haven.

 

Since early 2023, SOHR activists have documented the death of 34 civilians, including a woman and three children by Turkish Jandarma in different Syrian areas near the Syria-Turkey border, while 52 other civilians, including three children and five women, were injured.

 

The fatalities are distributing regionally as follows:

 

  • “Peace Spring” area: 16 civilians in Al-Hasakah countryside and two men in Al-Raqqah countryside.

 

  • Areas controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and opposition factions: 11 civilians, including a child, in Idlib countryside.

 

  • “Euphrates Shield” area: Four civilians, including a woman, in north Aleppo countryside.

 

  • SDF-controlled areas: A child in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

 

Acts of violence leave ten Turkish soldiers dead

 

In 2023, Turkish forces lost ten soldiers in acts of violence and attacks with rockets and artillery shells fired from areas where Kurdish forces and Syria Democratic Forces are deployed, where the attacks targeted positions in Syrian and Turkish territory. Circumstances of the death of those Turkish soldiers, documented by SOHR, can be summarised as follows:

 

  • January 13: A Turkish soldier was killed when the Turkish base in Hazawan village in Al-Bab countryside in eastern of Aleppo came under attack with rockets and artillery shells fired from areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed in north Aleppo countryside.

 

  • April 30: A Turkish officer was killed and seven other soldiers were injured due to the explosion of a landmine in Tel Abyad area in Al-Raqqah countryside.

 

  • October 5: Two members of Turkish Special Forces were killed in bombardment on Dabiq base in Aleppo countryside with shells fired from regime positions in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

 

  • October 7: A Turkish officer and a soldier were killed in an attack by Syrian Democratic Forces on a Turkish military base in Sayda in the north-western Ain Issa in Al-Raqqah countryside and another base in the south of Ras Al-Ain in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah.

 

  • October 10: Four Turkish soldiers were killed in rocket fire by “Tel Tamr Military Council” in Al-Dauodiyah base in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

 

35 joint patrols with Russian forces in north-east Syria

 

As Turkish forces resumed running joint patrols with the Russians in north-east Syria region, SOHR documented 35 joint patrols in 2023, mostly toured areas near the Syria-Turkey border, with 21 patrol having been run in Aleppo countryside, specifically the western and eastern countryside of Ain Al-Arab (Kobani), and 14 others having been run in Al-Hasakah countryside. Some patrols have been attacked by civilians opposing the Russian-Turkish agreement. Here is a monthly distribution of Turkish-Russian patrols in 2023:

 

  • January: Six patrols: four in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and two in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • February: Three patrols: two in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and one in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • March: Five patrols: three in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and two in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • April: Six patrols: four in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and two in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • May: Five patrols: three in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and two in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • June: Three patrols: two in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and one in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • July: Five patrols: three in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani) and two in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • August: One patrol in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • September: One patrol in Al-Hasakah countryside.

 

  • October: No patrols were conducted.

 

  • November: No patrols were conducted.

 

  • December: No patrols were conducted.

 

 

Turkish forces bring in 100 vehicles to the “de-escalation zone”

 

Turkish forces continued reinforcing their military bases in the “de-escalation zone” in 2023, where they brought in 335 military vehicles and trucks carrying military and logistical supplies to the region. Here are further details:

 

  • June 8: Turkish forces brought in new military reinforcement consisting of 25 military vehicles, coming from Kafar Lousin border crossing between Syria and Turkey in Idlib countryside, and headed towards south in Idlib to be distributed in Idlib and Aleppo countryside within “Putin-Erdogan” area, in order to replace their forces and to reinforce their military posts in their presence areas.

 

  • June 22: Turkish forces brought in large military reinforcement to the “de-escalation zone,” less than 48 hours after the arrival of a regime military column in Aleppo countryside. According to SOHR sources, two military convoys crossed into Syria through Kafr Lusin crossing in northern Idlib, and they comprising over 75 Turkish armoured vehicles and trucks carrying tanks, logistical supplies and repair equipment, as well as tens of personnel carriers. SOHR sources also confirmed that the first convoy headed to Turkish military posts in the western countryside of Aleppo, while the second one headed to Al-Mastumah camp near Idlib city.

 

  • July 15: Turkish forces brought in a military convoy included military and logistic vehicles, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers escorted with members, where the convoy crossed through Kafar Lousin border crossing with the Turkish side and headed towards the Turkish posts in the western countryside of Aleppo, within “Putin-Erdogan” area.

 

  • July 27: Turkish forces brought in military reinforcement, through Kafar Lousin border crossing between both Turkish and Syrian sides, including more than 15 military and logistic vehicles, in addition to armoured vehicles accompanied with trucks carrying military vehicles and prefabricated walls, to reinforce their points on contact lines within “Putin-Erdogan” area, where a part of the reinforcement headed to the Turkish posts in the western countryside of Aleppo.

 

  • August 2: Turkish forces brought in new military reinforcement to areas they control, within “Putin-Erdogan” area, consisting of 20 military armoured vehicles, through Bab Al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, where the reinforcement headed towards posts in Jabal Al-Zawiyah in the southern countryside of Idlib.

 

  • August 13: SOHR reported that the Turkish forces brought in new military reinforcement, through Kafar Lousin border crossing between both Turkish and Syrian sides, which comprised of 20 military and logistic armoured vehicles headed towards posts of Jabal Al-Zawiyah in the southern countryside of Idlib in northwest of Syria.

 

  • August 18: Turkish forces brought in more than 30 trucks loaded up with cement blocks (walls and tunnels), logistic material and armoured vehicles, through Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Luwaa Iskanderon in the northern countryside of Idlib, where the reinforcement headed towards the Turkish posts on contact lines in Al-Nayrab town in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

 

  • August 20: The Administration of the Turkish forces instructed to replace all commanding officers present in the military checkpoints in “Putin-Erdogan” area, where this process including high-ranking officers as they were replaced by new officers from outside the region. This took place in a surprising manner with no information regarding the reasons behind this decision.

 

  • September 9: Turkish forces brought in a military convoy to the areas they control in Idlib countryside, through Kafar Lousin crossing in the northern countryside of Idlib. The convoy comprised about 20 military vehicle carrying logistic materials and equipment, and headed towards frontlines in Al-Barah and Kansafrah in the southern countryside of Idlib, to reinforce their posts there.

 

  • September 11: SOHR sources reported the entry of a new military convoy to “Putin-Erdogan” area through Kafar Lousin border crossing in the northern countryside of Idlib. The convoy comprised about 15 military vehicles carrying logistic and military equipment, and headed towards the frontline of Al-Mastoumah in the southern countryside of Idlib. In conjunction with the entry of the convoy, a violent explosion was heard, on Bab Al-Hawa highway near Batbo area in the northern countryside of Idlib, which turned out to be caused by the targeting of the Turkish convoy with anonymous RPG shells.

 

  • September 16: SOHR activists monitored the entry of a military convoy of the Turkish forces, comprising 12 machineries and trucks carrying logistic and military equipment, through Kafr Lucien border crossing in northern Idlib countryside, where the convoy headed towards Turkish checkpoints in Sama’an Mountain in Aleppo countryside.

 

  • September 18: Turkish forces brought in a military convoy of 15 military vehicles carrying logistical materials through Kafar Lucien border crossing in northern Idlib countryside to strengthen frontlines in Jabal Al-Zawiyah area in southern Idlib countryside

 

  • September 28: Turkish forces carried out exercises for members of Turkish-backed factions in Idlib countryside within “Putin-Erdogan” area, where 150 members of the National Front of the Liberation were trained with three types of anti-air missile launchers that are carried on the shoulders, in the military base in Al-Mastoma Town near Idlib City “Al-Tala’ae’ Camp.”

 

  • October 4: 30 machineries were brought in through Khirbat Al-Jouz Crossing, containing tanks, trucks carrying logistic equipment and personnel carriers, and distributed on the military checkpoints in Sahl Al-Ghab and western Idlib countryside.

 

  • October 15, Turkish forces brought in a military convoy through Kafar Lousin border crossing with the Turkish side and headed towards the frontlines in Jabal Al-Zawiyah in southern Idlib countryside within “Putin-Erdogan” area to strengthen the frontlines within their controlled areas. The convoy comprised 20 military vehicles carrying logistical materials.

 

  • October 18, Turkish forces brought military reinforcements to “Putin-Erdogan” area, where a military convoy comprising 17 military machineries entered through Kafr Lucien Crossing in northern Idlib countryside, and headed towards the Turkish military checkpoints near Al-Atareb Village in western Aleppo countryside.

 

  • October 23, Turkish forces, during the past few hours, brought in a new military convoy of 20 military vehicles carrying logistical materials and military equipment. The convoy headed towards southern Idlib countryside to strengthen the frontlines of Al-Mastumah within “Putin-Erdogan” area.

 

  • October 28: Turkish forces brought in a military convoy to Syria through Kafar Lousin border crossing with Turkish territory in northern Idlib. The convoy comprised 22 military vehicles carrying military and logistical materials and headed towards Taftanaz town in Idlib countryside opposite regime-held areas.

 

  • November: 33 vehicles carrying military and logistical supplies crossed into Syria through Kafr Lusin border crossing in two patches on November 14 and November 22. The convoys headed to Turkish posts in Idlib countryside.

 

 

We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), renew our appeal to the United Nations, UN Security Council and international community to exert maximum pressure on the Turkish government to stop its violent and illegal pushbacks against Syrian civilians fleeing from military operations in their areas. We also warn against attempts to sneak into Turkey through unsafe routes in light of the escalating violent pushbacks by Turkish Jandarma along the Syria-Turkey border.

 

SOHR also calls for referring Turkey’s pushbacks, which amount to premeditated murders, to international courts, so that all those responsible and those who aided and abated the killing of Syrian people can face justice.