UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) — About 800 members of the Islamic State’s families have fled a refugee camp after shells fell near it as Turkish troops and pro-Syrian Syrian factions continued their offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, the Kurdish self-administration said Sunday.
The attack, launched on Wednesday by Ankara, unconcerned by international condemnation and threats of sanctions, has forced 130,000 people from their homes, marking a new humanitarian disaster in the bloody conflict in Syria since 201.
The attack also resulted in more civilian casualties, killing 14 civilians on Sunday due to artillery shelling by Turkish forces and the fire of Syrian fighters loyal to them in several border areas, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Today, 785 foreign ISIS operatives managed to flee Ain Eissa camp,” the self-administration said in a statement on Facebook. “They attacked the camp guard and opened the doors to escape.”
An official at the camp told AFP that the shelling occurred on the international road near the section dedicated to the families of the organization.
The self-administration and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the guard had withdrawn from the camp, home to 13,000 displaced people, including family members of foreign ISIS operatives.
The Observatory pointed out that “the majority of the guards left the camp to join battles ten kilometers from it.”
“Sleeping cells (of the extremist organization) under the name of IDPs inside the camp helped the families to flee,” Abdel Qader Muwahed, the head of the Office of Humanitarian and Organization Affairs in the self-administration, told AFP.
For the other displaced, Abdelkader expected them to leave as a result of the lack of aid.
Save the Children expressed its “grave concern” at reports of family members fleeing. She warned of the “danger that foreign children will get lost in this mess,” and reiterated the need for the governments concerned to recover their citizens.
The self-administration announced on Friday that it is looking for a solution or an alternative location for the camp of Issa after being hit by shells of Turkish troops. The self-administration on Friday also evacuated another camp of 7,000 displaced people, located 12 kilometers from the Turkish border, for the same reasons.
– Air ban –
The SDF and its backbone have repeatedly repeated Kurdish fighters, fearing that their involvement in fighting Turkish forces could negatively affect their efforts to maintain security in detention centers and camps that include ISIS fighters and their families.
There are 12,000 members of the families of the group’s fighters in three camps controlled by Kurdish forces, namely the camps of Ain Issa (north) and Roj and al-Houl (northeast). The majority are in the Hul camp.
Several Western countries have warned that the Turkish offensive could help revive the Islamic State, which is still operating through dormant cells despite its field defeat by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
Germany and France on Saturday announced a suspension of arms sales to Turkey in response to the attack.
The Syrian Democratic Forces accused Turkey in the past few days of bombing two prisons where jihadists are located, pointing out the flight of five members of the organization, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s bombing in Qamishli that killed six people.
Turkey launched its offensive two days after Washington withdrew a limited group of troops from border points in northeastern Syria, a move that appeared to be a US green light, which the SDF considered a “stab from the back.”
The forces called on the United States to shoulder its responsibilities towards it and abide by the promises of “protection”, calling for an air embargo against Turkish aircraft, which would help Kurdish fighters to respond to the Turkish attack.
– Dead and displaced.
With more casualties on Sunday, the death toll from the Turkish attack reached 52 civilians as well as 104 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Among the dead civilians, according to the observatory, nine were shot dead on Saturday by Syrian fighters loyal to Ankara, according to the same source.
On the other side of the border, 18 civilians have been killed in the past few days in shells that landed on border areas, according to Turkish authorities.
According to the United Nations, the Turkish attack since Wednesday pushed 130 thousand people to flee their homes, heading to safer areas, especially near the city of Hasaka. A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Larkey warned that the attack could push 400,000 people to flee.
On the ground, the SDF is engaged in fierce clashes to limit the advance of Turkish forces and their pro-Syrian factions, which now control 35 border villages, most of them near the town of Tal Abyad in northern Raqqa.
They also took control of the town of Sluk east of Tel Abyad on Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Fierce fighting is concentrated in the areas of Ras al-Ain (in the north of al-Hasakah governorate) and Tal Abyad, accompanied by heavy shelling, which extends to other border areas.
Turkey’s offensive aims to create a buffer zone under its control that would transport a large part of its 3.6 million Syrians.
A military source from the Syrian Democratic Forces from inside Ras al-Ain told AFP that the clashes were “very strong”, explaining, “Our forces came out of the underground tunnels” to face the Turkish attack on the town.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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