Turkish forces capture al-Bab after alleged death of 444 civilians, prepare to attack Kurdish headquarters

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), Euphrates Shield Brigades (R). File photo

ARA News

The Turkish Army forces and allied rebels in Syria captured the town of al-Bab on Thursday after a deal with ISIS to withdraw, in an operation that since the 13th of November killed at least 444 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

Turkey, however, denied the killing of civilians in al-Bab.

The Turkish-led Euphrates Shield campaign arrived near the city of Bab on 13 November and finished its goals after a campaign that lasted over 3.5 months.

Already in January, the Turkish army claimed ISIS would withdraw from al-Bab.

After the Turkish-backed rebels controlled 50 per cent of al-Bab city, a deal was reached with ISIS, leading to the withdrawal of ISIS militants to the Deir Hafer town.

According to SOHR, at least 444 civilians were killed in the campaign, including 96 children under the age of 18 and 59 women.

However, on 7 January the Turkish army denied civilians were hurt in the operations.

“The allegations that civilians were affected during the ongoing Euphrates Shield Operation do not reflect the facts on the ground and are ill-intended,” the General Staff said.

“To not harm the civilians is one of the basic principles of the Turkish Armed Forces,” it added.

“The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) operate on the basic principle that they do not harm civilians. Our operations are slowed down because we are taking care to not effect civilians,” Turkish President Erdoğan said in late January.

Turkey managed to launch the operation in late 2016 with a Russian green light, and expelled ISIS.

According to analysts, the main goal of the operation was to prevent the Syrian Kurds from connecting the three canton administrations of Cizere, Kobani and Efrin–that together constitute the Rojava Self-Administration.

Firas Pasa, Turkmen commander of the Muntasır Billah brigade, said that the Turkish campaign will now target the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)–that liberated Manbij on August 13.

“We beat ISIS terrorists. Now it’s time for the other terrorists. We’re coming Manbij,” he said.

Moreover, Pasa suggested that they will attack the Kurdish forces in Efrin district [also known as Afrin] in northwestern Aleppo.

The pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah also said that after al-Bab, Turkish forces will target Manbij and Afrin.

Such attacks on the Kurds will make it more difficult for the United States government to navigate the relations between two key US allies in Syria: Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).  So far, the US has refused to support Turkish attacks on the Kurds.

Elissa Slotkin, the former US Assistant Secretary of Defense, said in January that the coalition’s only target is the Islamic State (ISIS), explicitly ruling out attacks on Manbij city, which has been secured by the Kurdish-led SDF forces.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have vowed to resist any Turkish attacks on its forces.

“These irresponsible actions by Turkey and its allies are strongly condemned,” the commander of the SDF-led Manbij Military Council, Adnan Abu Amjad, previously told ARA News.

“We have chosen resistance to face this aggression by Turkey and its allied Euphrates Shield brigades,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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