Turkish-backed groups shell IDP camp in Syria's Aleppo; 2 deaths, multiple injuries reported

Two were killed and at least several more wounded in heavy bombardment by Turkish-backed armed groups that targetted camps and villages with large numbers of displaced populations in Shahba canton, located in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, local sources said on Friday.
author_image Hisham Arafat

ALEPPO, Syria (Kurdistan 24) – Two were killed and at least several more wounded in heavy bombardment by Turkish-backed armed groups that targetted camps and villages with large numbers of displaced populations in Shahba canton, located in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, local sources said on Friday.

Shahba is under the joint control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian regime troops, with an additional presence of Russian troops. The area hosts many thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who arrived there after escaping when Turkey and Turkish-backed militias attacked nearby Afrin and began occupying it in 2018.

Anjela Rasho, the co-head of Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC) in Shahba, told Kurdistan 24 that several civilians were wounded and a Kurdish civilian named Khaled Mohammad Oso from the village of Kafr Naya was in critical condition after being struck in his back by shrapnel.

“The heavy mortar shelling claimed the life of a 47-year-old Syrian Kurdish IDP Mohammad Sido and the life of a regime soldier, plus two soldiers were wounded in the shelling,” she said.

Rasho added that intermittent bombardment by Turkish-backed militias targeting civilian areas within the district has been ongoing for the past month, but has intensified over the past few days when it has struck several villages and camps. These include the Shahba IDP camp, Eqibe, Suxaneke, Dayr Al-Jimal, Mar’anaz, Tanab, Kafr Antun, and many other villages hosting various numbers of displaced families.

Other activists in the district reported that the area has been bombarded by artillery and mortar shells for a week, completely destroying dozens of homes.

The canton of Shahba, located in Tel Rifaat in the northern part of Aleppo province, was an area once under the control of the so-called Islamic State before Syrian Kurdish forces liberated the region in 2016.

Local officials from the Kurdish-led self-administration established a displacement camp there, known as Serdem Camp, on March 29, 2018, shortly after the Turkish-led incursion into Afrin. Turkey’s military operation led to the displacement of thousands of Kurds and the killing of scores more.

The camp began to receive displaced people from Afrin on April 10, 2018, and currently houses over 1,400 refugees, many of them women and children.

Apart from the heavy shelling by Turkish-backed groups, the Shahba area has been cut off from humanitarian aid by both the Syrian regime, on the one hand, and Turkish-backed forces, on the other. 

Multiple human rights and media reports have documented large numbers of credible claims that, since the occupation of Afrin in March 2018, Turkish-backed armed groups have regularly committed various violations and war crimes, primary among them ethnic cleansing, kidnapping, extortion, murder, rape, and the looting and destruction of property.

Local activists told Kurdistan 24 and other media on Thursday that Turkish-backed militias from the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA) have kidnapped more than a dozen Kurdish civilians in Syria’s northwest region of Afrin, including women, children, and the elderly.

Read More: Turkish-backed militias kidnap Kurdish civilians in north Syria's Afrin

As recently as early March of this year, the commission again released evidence that it had found reasonable grounds to believe that the militias “perpetrated the war crime of murder and repeatedly committed the war crime of pillaging, further seriously contravening the right to enjoyment of possessions and property.”

Read More: UN: Turkish-backed groups carry out war crimes, target Kurdish women

The UN concluded that “if any armed group members were shown to be acting under the effective command and control of Turkish forces, these violations may entail criminal responsibility for such [Turkish] commanders who knew.” 

Editing by John J. Catherine