Violence, crime, and clashes among Turkish-backed armed groups have reached alarming levels, while a surge in explosions further contributes to the chaos engulfing the region, according to a recent report by the Violations Documentation Centre in Northern Syria (VDC-NSY).
The infiltration of Turkish forces into Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniye) and Tell Abyad (Girê Spî) has exacerbated the existing instability in the region, leading to the forced displacement of approximately 375,000 residents. The subsequent return of bombings and assassinations has further intensified the crisis.
Violations escalate in June
The VDC-NSY has documented various violations occurring within regions under Turkey’s control during the month of June 2023.
Among the violations documented are two deaths resulting from shelling or clashes in residential neighbourhoods. The report also details five incidents of explosions caused by mines and booby traps.
Moreover, 33 individuals have been arrested, with 17 of them reportedly subjected to torture. Nineteen people have been kidnapped.
Human toll of Turkish incursions
The report also sheds light on the grim casualty figures resulting from ongoing Turkish attacks since the commencement of Operation Peace Spring on 9 October 2019, until the end of June 2023. A total of 805 civilians, including 109 children and 95 women, have lost their lives in this period.
The Turkish incursion have led to the arrests of 1,039 people, with 349 reportedly subjected to torture. Among those detained, 73 fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain held by the Turkish forces, including six female fighters.
The impact of the Turkish offensives and shelling has also been devastating for education and health related infrastructure. According to the VDC-NSY, 45 schools have been destroyed, and an additional 855 schools have faced significant disruptions, depriving approximately 94,000 students of education. The bombings have also targeted 46 medical points and hospitals, resulting in the deaths of five medical workers and the injury of 22 others. Three of the medical workers were field-executed by factions of the SNA. Furthermore, six journalists have lost their lives, and 21 others have been wounded in the line of duty.
Turkish government’s ongoing ground incursions into Syria
Since 2016, the Turkish government has repeatedly initiated ground incursions into Syria. The first of these offensives, known as the Euphrates Shield Operation, was launched in August 2016 against Kurdish groups. This was followed by the Olive Branch Operation in January 2018, which led to the expulsion of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration from Afrin (Efrîn) by March 2018. Subsequently, in October 2019, Operation Peace Spring took place, and in February 2020, Operation Spring Shield was carried out by Turkish forces against the Syrian Armed Forces in northwestern Syria.
The VDC-NSY report specifically focuses on data following Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which targeted the SDF-held towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al Ayn, beginning on 9 October 2019.
The timing of this incursion held symbolic significance, as it coincided with the 21st anniversary of the expulsion of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from Syria in 1998. Öcalan’s expulsion ultimately led to his arrest in 1999.