An elderly woman asks for her husband as she is evacuated from a building in Akcakale, Syria (LaPresse)

Condemnation of Turkey Rises Along With Death Toll

(Damascus) Days two and three of the Turkish military onslaught in northeastern Syria witnessed a big escalation in hostilities, with heavy air and artillery shelling of cities, towns and villages as well as electricity and water plants.

Turkish jets targeted the National Hospital in the border city of Ras Al Ain. A booby-trapped car was detonated in front of the Omari restaurant in the Muneer Habeeb residential neighborhood in the city of Qamishli which has resulted in several civilian deaths and injuries.

Earlier today, one civilian was killed and three others were left injured when Turkish artillery shelled the Al Zeitouna street in the northern suburbs of Qamishli. Several foreign bodies operating illegally in the region have pulled out their French, British and Swiss staff across the borders into northern Iraq following the escalation in military hostilities today.

Ras Al Ain came under heavy bombardment and airstrikes amid reports of mass evacuation by Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) fighters ahead of the Turkish land incursion in the area. The water purification and pumping plant of Alouk in rural Hassakah was put out of service following repetitive Turkish bombing of the installation. 

Turkish aggression draws more condemnation

The scenes of mass civilian exodus and widespread destruction in northeast Syria has attracted more regional and international condemnation calling for an immediate stop of the Turkish military campaign there, and for punitive sanctions against Ankara.

Meanwhile, only a few days after pulling out US troops from Syria and merely hours before the Turkish operation started, US President Donald Trump expressed his hope to be able to “negotiate between Turkey and the Kurds” – a statement that has caused even more outrage both inside and outside the USA towards Trump’s fickle policies and quickly-abandoned alliances.

The strongest sentiments of dismay and resentment have come from Syrian Kurdish militia and political leaders who feel abandoned by Trump to face what their commander in the city of Manbij described as ‘the barbaric Turkish aggression’

The SDF, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara branded a ” terrorist organization” and an arm of the outlawed PKK Kurdish Workers Party, has called on the US and its allies to establish a “no-fly zone” in northeast Syria in order to protect it from Turkish airstrikes.

As civilian casualties mount and destruction of the infrastructure in NE Syria expands as a result of the Turkish operation, the world seems to have become largely disillusioned with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s claim that the offensive merely aims at removing Kurdish-led forces from the border area and creating a “safe zone” so millions of Syrian refugees can be returned.

With the complete destruction of the nearby city of Raqqa by the US-led coalition five years ago, now utterly neglected and forgotten by the international community, except for some on-and-off reminders at UN Security Council sessions, fears are growing of the northeastern parts of Syria being turned into a massive wasteland with another humanitarian and demographic disaster in the making.

Humble statements by Arab League and NATO

The Arab League issued a statement Thursday condemning the Turkish aggression on Syria. It failed to do so before when hundreds of thousands of Syrians were being displaced, killed, kidnapped and tortured by ISIS and other terrorists organizations over the past nine years of conflict.

Also the Syrians’ respect of the Arab League, which froze their country’s membership at the outset of the war – Syria is a founding member of the Arab League – has been running at an all-time low for years, with the vast majority of its population’s outright rejection of Syria’s return to League of Arab Nations.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at a joint press conference in Athens with visiting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, said the Turkish offensive “would add difficulty in finding a political solution to end Syria’s long civil war, while Stoltenberg urged not to “further destabilize the region” by making sure its actions in the region were “measured and proportionate.”

Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said at the international body’s headquarters in New York that Turkey’s operation was a result of “demographic engineering” that was carried out by member-countries of the US-led international coalition in Syria, adding that the coalition members were “reaping the fruit” of their demographic policies.

“We are encouraging the Kurds to engage in dialogue with the Syrian government, but as you know they preferred other protectors,” Nebenzya added.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country’s operation would not go further than 30 km (20 miles) deep into Syria. “When we go 30 km deep in the safe zone, terror there will be removed,” he told CNN Turk, referring to the presence of Kurdish fighters considered by Ankara as “terrorists”.

Such statements seem to do very little to dampen mounting fears of the consequences emanating from Turkey’s massive offensive on northeastern Syria, reviving memories of horrible Ottoman massacres against Kurds, Armenians and Arab Christians which claimed the lives of millions of innocent civilians.

The current aggression is a strong reminder to Syrians of the 184,000 square kilometers of their homeland which Turkey gained in a deal with colonial France in the 1920’s. This was after a massive demographic change and a rigged referendum orchestrated in the Syrian Iskenderun province which was handed over to Ankara by those who did not own it in the first place.