Syrians ‘suffer greatly, flee stray shells’ in Turkey’s trans-border crackdown on Kurds

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Civilian casualties are on the rise in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli, which is next to the Turkish city of Nusaybin. The area has been locked in Ankara’s intense anti-terrorist operation against Kurdish militias for months. It has also impacted Kurds in Syria.

Operations against the PKK in the Nusaybin district in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin have intensified over the past month as Ankara continues its military crackdown on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the same time Ankara, in a clear violation of international law, continues to target the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD), which is linked to the PKK as well as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.

Military actions on the Turkish side of the border over the past few weeks had been spilling over into Northern Syria and the town of Qamishli, which before the conflict had over 180,000 people living inside its walls. As shelling continues, civilians on the Syrian side bear the brunt of wrath from the Turkish artillery, with rogue shells often end up hitting civilian structures. An RT crew at the scene discovered widespread destruction from Turkish shelling, with Mosques, schools, and residential buildings lying in ruin.

“The Turkish army is fighting against the Kurdish militia. We do not know exactly what is happening inside Nusaybin. Here in Syria we get their stray bullets, and even shells, mines and so on,” one resident of the town shared with RT.

Another local said that civilians “have suffered greatly. It is we that suffer – civilians – when the shells from Nusaybin over in Turkey land here.”

Arabs and Christians which make up a significant minority in Qamishli, alongside a Kurdish majority were forced to flee neighborhoods that are geographically closest to the Turkish border as ongoing military operation poses a direct threat to their livelihood.

Speaking to people on the ground, an RT correspondent also heard criticism of media coverage of the events as locals voiced concern that western outlets had neglected to cover Turkish actions against the Kurds.

“Now you can see one of the Turkish army attacks on the city on the backdrop of a deliberate media silence that the Kurdish city is subjected to violence and shelling by the Turkish army,” Akram Barakat, head of the Federation of Free Media in Qamishli told RT.

Despite widespread destruction with at least two people having been killed and five others injured after a shell hit a house, according to RT correspondent, Muhammad Abdurahman Hassan, Qamishli remains “relatively peaceful” in comparison to the situation in Turkey’s Nusaybin, where Ankara banned journalists and NGOs from even entering the city. People of the Syrian city of Qamishli can clearly hear the sounds of bombings, heavy guns and explosives inside Nusaybin at the Turkish side of the border on a daily basis.

In November 2015, Nusaybin, a town of 80,000, mostly Kurds, was placed under curfew by the Turkish government with military operations against the PKK fighters continuing in the district.

According to Sara Kaya, mayor of Nusaybin, as of last week, at least seven neighborhoods in the city fell after months of heavy bombardment from Turkish forces. Civilians in Nusaybin also suffer from the military blockade, where snipers roam the rooftops shooting indiscriminately.

“In the other districts, which are not exposed to the bombing, the Turkish security forces deployed snipers on top of the residential buildings,” Kaya told ARA News. “Snipers are targeting any suspicious movement inside these neighborhoods. Residents there suffer snipers fire ...”

“The Turkish war is not against a certain party, it’s against all Kurds,” Kaya added. “Otherwise, what could explain the increasing death toll among civilians in this brutal campaign?”