In the late hours of the evening of November 19th 2022, the Turkish state launched large-scale aerial attacks with warplanes and drones across the whole of North and East Syria. These attacks aim to displace the people of the region and open a way for further occupation. The Turkish state is specifically targeting vital infrastructure which aims to destroy the region’s economy and people’s livelihoods.
Moreover, Turkey’s attacks are actively supporting ISIS in their efforts to reorganize and regroup. In particular the situation at Al-Hol camp threatens the stability of the region. Known as the most dangerous camp in the World, Al-Hol houses almost 53,000 people from Syria and Iraq as well as foreign countries. Among them there are thousands of foreign ISIS women & their children. The SDF, the Internal Security Forces, and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria have repeatedly called for the international community to take the responsibility for their citizens and repatriate them. Even though some states have repatriated single individuals or families, thousands of foreign ISIS families are still in the camps of North and East Syria.
The camps pose a major threat both to the region and also to the rest of the World, as the ISIS ideology is passed down to the children born and growing up there, amongst whom more than 50 different countries are represented. The crucial role of the women of the camp in raising the next generation of jihadis is well documented.
Due to ISIS cell activity in the camp, including brutal torture and regular murders, the operation Security and Humanity was launched by the Internal Security Forces & the SDF. The first phase took place from 28.3.2021 – 2.4.2021. A second phase started on 25.8.2022 and continued for 3 weeks until 17.9.2022. During these operations ISIS cells were sought out and detained. Additionally a large number of tunnels, as well as a huge cache of weapons and ammunition were found. Women in the camp have repeatedly stated that they are waiting for a Turkish attack as it gives them an opportunity to flee the camp.
Numerous incidents of Turkey’s direct support for ISIS have been documented during the ongoing wave of attacks that started on 20th of November 2022:
– On the 23.11.22, the checkpoint of the Internal Security Forces of Al-Hol Camp was targeted by three Turkish airstrikes, resulting in eight members of the SDF being killed while on guard at the camp. This Turkish attack led to some ISIS individuals and families escaping the camp. Six of the escapees were caught and re-detained later.
– The same day Turkey struck a site near the Jerkin prison in Qamishlo and near the Orkesh Rehabilitation Center in which foreign ISIS affiliates are detained. The security level was increased after the attack which prevented any break out attempt. After the Turkish attacks happened unusual activities in many detention facilities for ISIS members increased, though.
– Mazloum Abdi, of the SDF General Command, announced on the same day that the SDF would be pausing their counter-ISIS operations: “Due to our forces’ preoccupation with addressing the Turkish occupation, they cannot continue their mission of pursuing ISIS cells. Currently, we’re forced to confront this Turkish aggression.”
– In the late evening of 25.11.22, Turkish UAVs were seen loitering over Al-Hol Camp. A group of ISIS women and children used this as an advantage and attempted to escape. They were soon captured by the Internal Security Forces. The local TV channel RonahiTV interviewed the children who tried to escape from the foreign sector of the camp, exposing the coordination between the Turkish state and the detainees’ plan to flee the camp. One of them said: “Yesterday at 2’o clock, we went on a smugglers route. Through a phone call we were told that now warplanes will come and they will make our way to Idlib more easy. We were told that we should go to Heseke, then to Serekaniye and from there to Idlib.(…) “The smuggler said: ‘Go to the Hacer road, I will take you to Heseke and from there to Idlib.’ We wanted to go to Idlib because my brother is there.” Another one told them: “When we left they told us that now our time has come. After one hour, the smuggler told us that we should go straight. But when we were walking we were caught. We wanted to go to Idlib. (..) We would have gone to Heseke and from there to Idlib because my brother is there.”It is notable that for both their final destination was Idlib. Idlib is an enclave in North West Syria, controlled by what was once known as the Free Syrian Army, but is now dominated by remnants of ISIS and offshoots of Al-Qaeda. While nominally separate groups, all are ultimately organized and equipped by the Turkish state.
– As a result of the Turkish attack 33 national and international NGOs have suspended their missions inside Al-Hol camp.
– On 26.11.22, Mazloum Abdi, General Commander of the SDF, said during an online press conference: “We received intelligence information about ISIS preparing a riot. When Turkey attacks, they will also attack from the South in the Ghweiran [Heseke] prison and Al-Hol Camp. […] A Turkish offensive will strengthen ISIS.”
– One day later, on 27.11.22, YPJ commander Nesrîn Abdullah gave a live interview on Ronahi TV channel. She said: “In the current phase of the last weeks, the surroundings of the prison where IS members are held was attacked, the rehabilitation center for the so-called ‘Cubs of Caliphate’ was targeted, and camps where ISIS families reside were also targeted. […] And I tell you that we have obtained information that proves the coordination between the Turkish secret service and the ISIS families inside the camps. […] We are under attack right now. If the World closes its eyes to this truth, then we can not take responsibility any longer to secure these jihadist mercenaries. We can bring them all out of our borders, because we are here in an alert situation. And our first aim is to protect our people, to maintain peace in our areas.”
Link to SDF statement “ISIS threat increased following the Turkish occupation airstrikes on the Al-Hol camp and the “Jerkin” prison: https://sdf-press.com/en/2022/11/isis-threat-increased-following-the-turkish-occupation-airstrikes-on-the-al-hol-camp-and-the-jerkin-prison/
Outcome of the second phase of the operation Security & Humanity against ISIS cells in Al-Hol camp: https://ypj-info.org/statements/the-final-statement/
YouTube-Link for the video: https://youtu.be/YzegEhxfCpk