Civilian casualties from Turkish airstrikes grow in northern Syria amid weak support from Syrian Army

At least 218 civilians have lost their lives and another 653, among them 35 children, have been injured in the last 8 days of the Turkish assault on northern Syria.
author_image Hisham Arafat

QAMISHLI, Syria (Kurdistan 24) – At least 218 civilians, including 18 children, have lost their lives and another 653, among them 35 children, have been injured in the last 8 days of the Turkish assault on northern Syria, the Kurdish-led self-administration Health Authority announced on Thursday.

Sources from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed Turkish warplanes struck the public hospital in the town of Serekaniye (Ras al-Ain in Arabic), where hundreds of wounded civilians were staying.

After a deal was struck between the SDF and the Syrian Army, Turkish airstrikes and shelling intensified on the two towns of Serekaniye and Tal Abyad, while bombardments lessened on other border towns in the northeast, including Derik, Qamishli, Amuda and Dirbesiye. The towns of Kobani and Manbij, some 400 km west of the Iraqi border, have also experienced a lull in violence.

Syrian government forces, known as the Syrian Army, have been moving slowly toward SDF-held areas, and since the deal announced on October 13, arrived in Manbij and Kobani on Wednesday.

However, it seems the SDF-held border towns of Serekaniye and Tal Abyad were not included in the SDF-Damascus deal as Turkish bombardments have not ceased.

A map showing the areas under Turkish bombardment and clashes [purple] and the areas where the Syrian regime forces recently deployed to [orange]. (Photo: https://syria.liveuamap.com/ edited by Kurdistan 24 on October 17, 2019)
A map showing the areas under Turkish bombardment and clashes [purple] and the areas where the Syrian regime forces recently deployed to [orange]. (Photo: https://syria.liveuamap.com/ edited by Kurdistan 24 on October 17, 2019)

Indeed, Turkish attacks intensified on those towns despite Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announcing the establishment of the so-called “safe zone” after the Turkish Defense Ministry declared the towns of Serekaniye and Tal Abyad to be under the control of their allied Syrian militias.

Sources on the ground, however, confirmed that both towns and their countrysides are still under bombardment by Turkish warplanes and artillery shelling, in addition to clashes occuring between SDF fighters and the Turkish-led Syrian militias.

“The Turkish army pushed hundreds of their Syrian militias to Serekaniye and its countryside and then blocked the borders so they may not turn back or flee,” local sources told Kurdistan 24.

“Once the SDF attack or drive them out of town, they won’t have an exit to flee to Turkey, so they will flee to the countryside of Serekaniye, creating more chaos,” the source warned.

The Turkish offensive, which was launched on October 9, has thus far led to the displacement of some 275,000 civilians, including 70,000 children. About 1500 civilians have already moved to the Kurdistan Region.

The SDF have also confirmed they lost 137 of their fighters, with another 180 injured in the offensive.

Editing by Nadia Riva