Syria: Operation Olive Branch claims 200 lives
In response to the Turkish aggression Avêsta Xabûr, a Kurdish woman, committed a suicide attack by blowing herself up. One tank was destroyed and at least Turkish soldiers died. According to one version, she used a grenade. Other versions, popularized by some of the Kurdish media, claim that the 20-year-old had explosives tied to her body.
Avêsta Xabûr is a pseudonym. Her real name was Zulûkh Hemo. She was born in 1998 and was fighting in the ranks of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) since 2014. Her hometown was Bilbile, situated in the region of Afrin, close by the Turkish border. The area, which is where the attack of the Turkish army started, is mostly inhabited by the Kurds.
— Rojava Defense Units | YPG (@DefenseUnits) January 28, 2018
The assassination happened in Hemame, a village in the region of Afrin. The YPJ command has informed about the event on January 28th. “For all of our unit members Avêsta is a symbol of an emancipated woman. With strong convictions and ideology instilled in her, she became a selfless soul with proficient knowledge in military theory and practice. We, the command of the Women’s Protection Units, promise our martyrs and our people that we will fight until the very last drop of our blood to resist the Turkish invasion and to win the right to cherish free and honorable life” – says the statement of YPJ.
Turkey threatens conflict up to the border with Iraq
On January 20th, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch. That day first bombs and artillery shells were dropped on the region of Afrin. Before the operation the area had a population of 323,000 people, a third of which was internal refugees from other regions of Syria. According to the United Nations, at least 5,000 people have lost their houses as result of the fights.
Next day, the Turkish troops have crossed the Syrian border. The purpose of the attack is to create of a 30-kilometer long security zone. The troops are supported by various militias (individual fractions of Turkmen, Ahrar Al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army), located mainly in the territory of the “Euphrates Shield”.
Turkish army officially declares that it is fighting against ISIS and the militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have ties to the Syrian Kurds. However, there are no ISIS units in this part of Syria. So far the Turkish army has occupied small areas in the North and East of the region. Fierce battles over the Barsaya hill are underway.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over ten days of the operation at least 51 civilians were killed, including 17 children. The total death toll is at least 196 people.
During a phone conversation on January 26th, the US President, Donald Trump called his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdoğan to limit military operations in Syria. However, in a speech given in Ankara on the same day, Erdogan announced that he is willing to continue the operation until “there isn’t a single terrorist left at Turkish border with Iraq” after which he added that “of course, as promised, we will also cleanse Manbij”.
Manbij is located about 100 kilometers east of Afrin, on the east bank of the Euphrates, which is past the line which Turkey had previously described as one that it will not cross. The city was liberated from the control of ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and with the support of the United States in mid-2016. About 15 kilometers north of Manbij there is a front line where the Turkish troops and its supporting militias are stationed.
January 27th 2018 marked the third anniversary of the victory in the battle of Kobane, a city located 140 kilometres west of Afrin. At the beginning of 2015, the Kurdish fighters from the YPG and the female militants from YPJ won a seemingly unwinnable battle against the ISIS. During the clashes, the jihadists surrounded the city and neighbouring Turkey made it difficult for volunteers to cross the border and support the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and YPJ. On January 27th 2018 a march organized to commemorate the victory started from the Arin Mirkan memorial in Kobane. Mirkan, who is a symbol of the battle of the city, was defending the strategic hill of Mishtanour. To stop the advancing jihadists, she blew herself up, destroying the enemies’ tank with grenades. At the time of her death, Mirkan, was 20. She had been born in Afrin.