Mysterious armed group warns Afrin residents of ‘new battle’

A new armed group calling itself the Wrath of Olive Operations Room on Wednesday warned the remaining population of Afrin, occupied by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebel groups since March, of the start of a new battle that was to begin.
author_image Wladimir van Wilgenburg

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A new armed group calling itself the Wrath of Olive Operations Room on Wednesday warned the remaining population of Afrin, occupied by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebel groups since March, of the start of a new battle that was to begin. 

“To our people in all areas of Afrin, we hope you do not approach the headquarters and place of the mercenaries, in order to save your lives. Because from now on we enter a new phase of struggle and resistance,” read a statement released the group, about which little is known.

“We call on the mercenaries to get out of Afrin or else they will be buried under soil.”

The statement comes amidst unconfirmed media reports that People’s Protection Units (YPG) have send hundreds of fighters to Aleppo. So far, it’s unclear whether or not the new group is affiliated to the YPG. 

The Wrath of Olive Operations Room carried out its first operation on June 9, killing Ahmed Mesto, a Syrian Kurd, also known as Abu Aslan al-Kurdi, leader of the Turkish-backed Jabhat al-Shamia group.

“On this basis, we confirm in Wrath of Olives Operation Room to liquidate all the traitors dealing with the Turkish occupation and declare our responsibility for the assassination of the mercenary Ahmed Mesto (Abo Aslan),” the group said in a public statement in June.

The group has, so far, announced that it had killed three local Kurds on charges of “treason, espionage, and working with Turkey.” The group released the names of those targeted as Akash Hajj Ahmed Ali, Idrees Qara Hiso, and Hajj Ahmed Ali.

Last week, leading Kurdish member of the Turkish-backed Afrin Council Hasan Şindi said he fled to Europe, claiming he was a target for assassination, following a number of attacks by the Operation Room.

The Kurdish news outlet ANF accused him of having ties to the Turkish intelligence agency MIT. 

Earlier, Kurdish officials indicated they were ready and willing to fight against Islamist militants in Idlib, if this would help the battle in Afrin.

Salih Muslim, the former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the ruling party in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), told Kurdistan 24 in a previous interview that the Kurds might fight in Idlib as well.

“Fighting in Idlib or Afrin is our duty and responsibility, and when we fight in Idlib, it will be our decision as we are not tools in the hands of others,” he said.

A senior Kurdish official, Aldar Xelil, said in an interview that they were amenable to taking part in a Syrian-government-led operation in Idlib if doing so would bring them closer to retaking Afrin.

However, top YPG commander Sipan Hemo told Asharq al-Awsat in early August that the Syrian government is not serious about launching an operation in Idlib.

“We have no proposals to make as long as the regime does not have a clear plan,” he said, but pledged that the YPG’s military operations in Afrin continue and will only grow in intensity.

Editing by John J. Catherine