Since Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured several areas in Aleppo, now known as “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” areas, humanitarian crises have been emerging and worsening gradually, with violations, attacks and explosions occur almost daily. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked March’s prominent developments in these areas, which could be summarised in the following main points:
Human casualties: figures and details
In March, SOHR activists have documented the death of 17 people, they were six people, including an old man, in “Olive Branch” areas, and 11 people, including a child and two women in “Euphrates Shield” areas, as well as the injuries of more than 21 others.
The fatalities breakdown were as follows:
- A member of ISIS cells was killed after he blew up a grenade during a raid by police officers on his house in Afrin.
- Two Turkish-backed police officers were killed in an IED explosion on the road to Jendires in Afrin city.
- A member of Al-Sham Corps was killed in an armed fight with Al-Hamza Division in Al-Basoutah area in Afrin countryside.
- A displaced man from Kafr Sajnah in Idlib countryside was killed by indiscriminate gunshot during a fight between “Sultan Murad” faction and the military police on the road to Raju in Afrin city.
- An old man from Afrin died under tortured in prison of Turkish-backed factions after being detained for three days.
- Five people were killed in an attack, with surface-to-surface missiles fired by Russian warships and regime forces stationed in Aleppo, on oil market and refineries in Tarhin and Hamaran in the north-eastern countryside of Aleppo.
- A man and a woman were found dead with gunshot wounds in Humayr village in the west of Jarabulus city.
- A man was killed in rocket attacks by regime forces on the outskirts of Al-Bab city in eastern Aleppo.
- A child and a woman were killed in rocket attacks nearby Al-Hamaran crossing in Jarabulus countryside.
- A commander of “Hemat Al-Aqidah” was killed by gunfire by unknown gunmen in Jarabulus.
Ongoing explosions and rivalries
In March 2021, SOHR activists documented five explosions in areas under the control of “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” operations rooms as follows:
“Olive Branch” areas (Afrin):
- March 16: an IED planted in a civil car parked near the “commandos school” in Afrin city on the road to Jendires exploded, while Turkish-backed militiamen were attempting to dismantle it. The explosion resulted in the death of two members of the civil police, while three others were lightly wounded.
- March 17: an IED exploded in a car in Al-Mahmoudiyah neighbourhood in Afrin city.
- March 31: an IED exploded also in Al-Mahmoudiyah neighbourhood, causing material damage.
“Euphrates Shield” areas:
- March 10: a car-bomb explosion targeted the military school of “Al-Hamza Division”, which is operating under the banner of the Turkish-backed “National Army”, in Al-Bab city, a few hours after an inspection tour by the Minister of Defence of the “Syrian Interim Government”, Salim Idris, in the military sectors in Al-Bab area. However, the number of casualties have been still kept secret.
- March 17: an IED exploded in a military car of “Sultan Murad” faction in Jarabulus city in north-eastern Aleppo.
It is worth noting that the engineering teams and Turkish-backed factions have detonated and dismantled several IED planted earlier by unknown individuals in “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” areas during March.
On the other hand, an armed fight erupted in the Al-Basuta area in Afrin countryside, between “al-Hamza Division” faction and a group which defected recently from the division and joined the “al-Sham Corps”. The clashes, in which heavy weapons were used, left a member of “al-Sham Corps” dead and more than ten militiamen wounded on both sides.
While on March 31, a civilian from Kafr Sajna in the southern countryside of Idlib was killed, while his daughter was injured due to indiscriminate gunfire during an armed fight between “Sultan Murad Division” and the Military Police on the road to Raju in Afrin city.
Afrin: escalating violations and ongoing arbitrary arrests
As repression is escalating in Turkish-controlled areas in Aleppo countryside, especially in Afrin, Turkish-backed factions have stepped up their daily violations against the region’s people who refused to flee their areas and people displaced to the canton.
SOHR documented the arrest and kidnapping of over 21 civilians, including seven women, in March, in Afrin city and the districts of Ma’batli, Shirawa, Jendires and Raju in Afrin countryside. It is worth noting that the seven women were released after being arrested by the military police near smuggling routs in Bolbol district in Afrin countryside on charge of “illegal entry to Turkey, while the fate of the rest 14 people remained unknown.
It is also worth noting that the release of the women came after the “Revolution Activists Association in Homs” issued a statement demanded the release of the women in no more than 24 hours, or the association’s activists would stage a demonstration denouncing the military police’s “inappropriate” behaviour.
Violations against the people of Afrin are no longer confined to military factions of the “National Army”, but they are now practiced by councils and civil bodies as well.
In this context, local sources in Afrin city informed SOHR that the Turkish-backed local councils issued a public decision, suspending all attorneys issued by the Syrian regime’s departments by displaced people from Afrin, who were forced to flee their areas as a result of “Olive Branch” operation, and lived in regime-held areas. The power of attorneys were issued by displaced people from Afrin to their relatives who chose to stay in the city of Afrin and its surrounding areas to manage their properties.
Local councils required residents to issue power of attorneys from Turkey or European countries so that they could be recognized. With this unannounced decision, the relatives of the displaced persons from Afrin would not be able to manage the properties of their relatives, and all property belonging to the displaced people would be under the management of the Turkish-backed civil councils. As well as properties, including shops, houses and land controlled and entirely managed by Turkish-backed factions, mostly belonging to the displaced people of Afrin.
Furthermore, militiamen of the Turkish-backed “Suqur al-Sham” faction felled more than 400 olive trees in an agricultural orchard in the village of Qazlbash in Bulbul district in Afrin countryside in north-west Aleppo, belonging to a civilian from the region, who has been displaced from the canton due to the military operation.
In Sheikh al-Hadid area in Afrin countryside, however, the Turkish-backed Sulaiman Shah Division, known as “Al-Amshat Brigade”, seized several farmlands, adjacent to each others, belonging to civilians from the region, including displaced people who had fled from “Olive Branch” operation as well as others still present in the area. According to SOHR sources, a camp for displaced people and a military garage would be built on the seized agricultural land by “Al-Amshat” Division.
On March 31, a pharmaceutical plant was opened in Sharran district in rural Afrin, in the presence of the deputy of the Wali of Hatay, officials of the Turkish-backed “Local Council of Afrin” and representatives of Turkish-funded civil organizations. According to the head of the Health Directorate of Afrin, the plant was under direct oversight and supervision of the Health Directorate of Afrin, and it was established by local experts under the needed technical and health standards. The plant was also provided with modern technology and the most advanced production lines and it would participate in providing medicines in local market at affordable prices, as the head of the Health Directorate of Afrin claimed.
These developments coincided with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’s diligent efforts, at Turkish government’s orders, to get European support for establishing commercial and architectural projects in Afrin, after most of the canton’s residents had been forced to displace, as the Syrian National Coalition aimed to bring back the Syrian refugee, who had fled military operations in several Syrian provinces to Turkey, to Afrin as a part of Turkeys’ demographic change scheme.
According to SOHR sources, the Syrian National Coalition’s attempts to get European support failed.
The series of violations in “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” areas seem to be unstoppable as long as Turkish forces and their proxies keep breaching all international laws and charters, and with no body being able to put an end to these “grave” violations, despite SOHR repeated warnings about the dreadful humanitarian situation in the region.