This week in Northern Syria (IV)
A rundown of key events from Turkish/SNA & SDF-controlled territories
This entry covers events occurring between July 25th and August 1st. Due to my work schedule being quite busy at the end of each month posts around this time will often times be published a bit late, so please bear with me. Newsletter number five covering the first week of August will be out this week as well.
07/25/22: Tajikistan repatriated a group of 104 children and 42 women affiliated (in various capacities) with the Islamic State previously imprisoned by the AANES at al-Hawl. According to RFERL this “was coordinated by the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the International Red Cross, and the diplomatic representatives of Tajikistan in Kuwait.” It’s estimated that between four and five thousand foreign fighters remain detained in AANES prisons, while tens of thousands remain in camps such as al-Hawl as many countries (particular in the West) have elected not to repatriate their citizens, leaving the vast security and humanitarian issues in the hands of underfunded local authorities. Russia and Central Asian states such as Tajikistan have been the most active in repatriations, though almost exclusively of women and children.
07/25/22: A Grad rocket launched from al-Shahba’ region by either the SDF or the regime killed a woman in the outskirts of A‘zaz. Local Telegram channels reported strikes occurring in the vicinity of Turkey’s so-called ‘Research base’ east of the city.
07/26/22: Six civilian women were injured by Turkish shelling in the Tell Rifa‘at area. One of the six, Afrini IDP Fahmiyah Rasho, was sent to the National Hospital in Aleppo due to the severity of her injuries where she died several days later.
07/26/22: Two car bombs exploded in quick succession in the village of al-Jatal, belonging to the al-Ghandourah district of northern Aleppo. The cars reportedly belonged two brothers, who some sources claim are affiliated with an SNA faction though this is unconfirmed. One Telegram channel based in nearby Jarabulus blamed the attack on al-Jabhah al-Shamiyah and Jaysh al-Islam, tying it to broader intra-SNA rivalries, however such channels are usually quick to blame whatever SNA factions they dislike. None were killed or injured in the attack.
07/26/22: SNA officer Capt. Ahmed Abboud, or Abu Hassan Anab, was released from SNA Military Police-run Marate Central Prison in Afrin. Capt. Abboud was a security officer for the Third Legion (led by al-Jabhah al-Shamiyah) arrested in March on accusations of releasing SDF-linked detainees for cash along with other corruption charges. Since then numerous street protests have been held labelling his arrest arbitrary and calling for his release. Regardless of the veracity of Capt. Abboud’s charges, his case is a clear indication of how the SNA Military Judiciary and Military Police are not independent institutions but rather battlefields in which rivaling SNA factions pursue their interests against one another.
07/26/22: Attacks claimed by Hêzên Rizgariya Efrînê (HRE) on a Turkish base in the northern Aleppo village of Kiljibrin take the lives of two Turkish soldiers. HRE, frequently assumed to be an SDF front group, published footage of the attack as well as a similar one occurring two days prior at a Turkish base in the village of Jalbul, on the Afrin/al-Shahba’ front lines.
07/27/22: The US/Coalition base near the al-Hasakah city of al-Shaddadi was attack with rockets by unknown assailants (presumably the Islamic State).
07/27/22: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated in a TV interview that Turkey would support the Syrian regime in efforts to eradicate terrorist groups (namely the SDF). Google translation:
We will give all kinds of political support to the work of the regime in this regard. It is the most natural right of the regime to clear a terrorist organization in its own territory. However, the regime considers the moderate opposition as terrorists. It's not true either.
This statement sparked widespread protest on the part of civilian populations across Turkish-controlled territory, in addition to statements by the Turkish-supported Syrian Islamic Council, and various SNA factions included Harakat al-Tahrir wa’l-Bina’ and the 3rd Legion. The latter mention Çavuşoğlu but all essentially say that the regime is the cause of all terrorism in Syria and that the PYD etc. is just a pawn of Damascus.
07/27/22: AANES authorities discovered a mass grave in central Manbij city, dating back to the days of Islamic State occupation (2014-2016). At least 30 bodies were reportedly uncovered including two women and two children. Some of the victims were found still in handcuffs.
07/28/22: A Turkish drone strike killed four members of the AANES-affiliated Asayish security forces, traveling by car between ‘Ain ‘Isa and al-Raqqah. They have since been identified as Cîhan Mihemed Mistefa, Sara Mihemed El-Husên, Selma Elî Mustefa, and Beşar Mihemed Elî Bozan.#Syria: Turkish drone struck a car transporting members of the PKK to Tal al-Saman village in the Ain Issa region. 4 members of the group were reportedly killed. https://t.co/NwIIAO0TCCDRM Journal @remilitari
07/28/22: Shops and markets in the city of Manbij closed for the day in protest of a recent local SDF conscription efforts. Across AANES-controlled territories conscription campaigns remain perhaps the administration’s least popular policy. Also of note, Manbij shopkeepers have a long history of carrying out such general strikes.
07/29/22: A Turkish air raid struck what was reportedly an SDF ammunitions depot in the town of Sarrin. While the smoke plume was quite big it’s unclear whether there were any casualties.
07/30/22: Russian state-linked media reported on supposed joint military exercises being carried out by regime forces and the SDF at Sabkhat al-Jabboul (large saline lake/salt flats in eastern Aleppo). However, it appears that the SDF did not participate in such in any capacity and that the exercises were carried out by Russia and the pro-regime Tiger Forces militia only.
07/31/22: The SDF announced the launching of “Operation Oath,” a counter-intelligence campaign aimed at cracking down on pro-Turkish spy rings. With the Turkish drone campaign accelerating over the past year and being relatively successful at targeting members of various SDF-aligned military and security bodies, even when traveling by civilian car, it’s clear that the AANES has an issue with local informants.
08/01/22: Medical staff across Turkish-controlled northern Aleppo protested against wage inequality between Turkish and Syrian employees working at local Turkish run hospitals, as well as the “administrative marginalization” that Syrian employees face. Local police violently crackdown on protests in al-Bab, arresting a media activist. According to SyriaTV, the protests began after Syrian hospital employees saw documents showing that the salaries Turkish employees in the same positions receive exceed theirs by as high as 800%.
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