The Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, launched on Oct. 9 after President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from the region, has ''severely impacted'' an already dire humanitarian situation, says the United Nations. Civilians are fleeing the border areas, some heading into neighboring Iraq. Despite the ceasefire announced by the White House and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, eyewitnesses and Kurdish fighters say fighting has continued. A handful of Christian-led humanitarian groups remain in northeast Syria after major international aid organizations have withdrawn.
Nearly 180,000 residents have fled the fighting, and hundreds have been killed, including at least 18 children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that Turkey's militias had initially prevented a convoy from the Kurdish Red Crescent and the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) from entering Ras al-Ain to provide aid. It said it expected deaths to rise, with many wounded unable to reach medical care. Dave Eubank, leader of the FBR, said “people are still dying, we’re going to stand with them,” as the group prepared to return to the front line shortly after one of their workers, Zau Seng, was killed by mortar fire.
Eubank stated in an FBR video tweet: “This zone is one of ethnic cleansing with 300,000 people displaced. Many have been killed and wounded. Homes are destroyed. The Kurds are calling this area ‘the genocide zone’. The safe zone is not safe by any definition. It is the zone of the Turkish invasion. We’ve seen their tanks and been fired upon by those tanks and their aircraft. There has been no ceasefire this whole time.”
Turkey calls the Kurdish militia, which did the bulk of the fighting in the successful campaign against ISIS extremists, terrorists. A Russian-negotiated truce saw the start of joint Russian and Turkish patrols late last month, aimed at enforcing the ''safe zone'' to a depth of around 30 kilometers south of the border. (ZumaPress)
Four-time Pulitzer winning photojournalist Carol Guzy was on the front line to document the combat and the tragic aftermath.
GRAPHIC WARNING: Some of the following contain scenes of injury or death
October 30, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: The humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers rescues injured soldiers at the front line. Wounded are brought to a hospital in the besieged city, under the cover of smoke from burning tires.
October 31, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: Ahmad Bikair lost both parents, Ali Salish, 55 and Ibrahim Muhammad Xalif, 60 to mortar fire in the conflict with Turkey. He rushed them to the hospital. They were gravely wounded in their village of Tal El Ward, which means Village of the Flower, as the front line moves to approximately 4 kilometers from Tel Tamir.
October 31, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: A mother weeps beating her heart with the shoes of her son Mahmoud Mohammad al Khalif, 39 year old civilian shot by a sniper.
October 31, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: Soldiers with the Syrian army look towards the nearby front line during a lull in fighting as the sun sets. A bullet hit this soldier’s helmet the day before.
November 2, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: No ceasefire. Kurdish YPG soldiers that are part of the SDF fight Turkish forces at the front line. The humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers stood by for rescue operations. Earlier they braved fierce gunfire, tank cannon fire and an RPG attack to rescue a soldier. His friend was heard to say in the ambulance that he would blow himself up if his friend died.
November 2, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: Kurdish YPG soldiers that are part of SDF fight Turkish forces at the front line.
November 3, 2019, Qamishli, Syria: Noora Hassan, mother of YPG soldier Jan Qamishlo weeps at funeral for three Kurdish “martyrs” killed in fighting with Turkey. One grieving family member angrily denounced the United States, saying, “Americans you betrayed us and anything that happens to us you are responsible.”
November 3, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: The mortar attack that killed Zau Seng, a videographer and medic for the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers at the front line in the conflict with Turkey. The organization was staffing a casualty collection point to rescue wounded. Zau was from Burma and left a wife and baby who celebrated her first birthday today. “He came here to help,” said Dave Eubank from FBR.
November 3, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: Free Burma Ranger Dave Eubank and hospital staff try to revive Zau Seng, a videographer and medic for the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers who was killed in a mortar attack at the front line in the conflict with Turkey. “Call it Turkish zone of invasion, zone of genocide...anything but a safe zone,” said Eubank in previous days.
November 3, 2019, Tel Tamir, Syria: Dave Eubank becomes emotional as he talks about the loss of Zau Seng.
November 7, 2019, Derrik, Syria: Dave Eubank carries the coffin of Zau Seng, a Free Burma Ranger member killed in the fighting with Turkish forces. Zau Seng was given a martyr's funeral by Kurdish fighters and civilians. During the procession to the cemetery, Eubank said, women sang laments and touched the coffin, calling Zau Seng 'My son, my son.' Eubank said the betrayal of the Kurds "hurt my heart and I pray that God heals this wound that my country gave you.”
Zau Seng, far right, with Joseph, Dave, and David after an earlier successful rescue.
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