Fears are growing of a possible escape as the Kurdish forces, who operate the camp, have redeployed troops to the border to fight the Turkish invasion
“Get us money or get us out of here,” the message from the desperate Russian ISIL bride read.
Writing in one of their encrypted Telegram groups, the women of al-Hol detention camp in north-east Syria were trying to mobilize friends and family on the outside to organize a prison break.Although that attempt came to nothing, fears are growing of a possible escape as the Kurdish forces, who operate the camp, have redeployed troops to the border to fight the Turkish invasion of northern Syria.Hol is a sprawling settlement holding about 68,000 wives and children of the followers of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.It has variously been described as a “ticking time bomb,” a “mini caliphate,” and “Camp Bucca II” after the U.S.-run detention centre in Iraq which spawned ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Women within the camp have got hold of phones, and more recently even knives and guns, according to reports.
The guards, who numbered about 400 before this week’s redeployment, admit privately that the women have effectively taken over the day-to-day running of the camp.Related
They have been attempting to smuggle themselves out for months and the mission took on an added urgency last month after Baghdadi called on them to “rise up.”Meanwhile, at the border Turkish mortars killed one 12-year-old boy and ripped off a young girl’s leg Thursday as Turkey pummelled Kurdish-held towns on the second day of its assault on northern Syria.Muhammad Yusuf Hussein and his seven-year-old sister Sarah were hit in a strike on Qamishli, the de facto capital of the unrecognized Kurdish statelet of Rojava.
On the other side of the border, Turkish authorities said four children including a nine-month-old baby had been killed in retaliatory fire.They were the youngest of at least 15 civilians killed in artillery and air strikes on a large swathe of territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia.Witnesses said there was intense shelling in both directions around Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, the two key border towns that anchor a stretch of border where Turkey is making its main assault.
Kurdish guards escort women, reportedly wives of ISIL fighters, in the al-Hol camp in Syria, in July 2019.
Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, claimed 109 “terrorists” were killed in the offensive, a reference to the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Early in the day the SDF struck a defiant note, saying they had repulsed a Turkish attack on Tal Abyad and said claims Turkey had made any advance east of the Euphrates were false.In a sign that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed forces would not oppose the offensive, a minister described the SDF as “separatists” who had provided Turkey with a pretext for the attack.
Asked whether Damascus would resume dialogue with the Kurdish-led forces, Faisal Maqdad, the deputy foreign minister, rejected the suggestion and called them “armed groups who had betrayed their country and committed crimes against it.”Turkish officials said a total of six civilians, including the children, had been killed on the Turkish side of the border.
Activists in Syria said at least 15 civilians and eight Kurdish fighters had been killed.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60,000 civilians had been displaced by fighting, with large convoys of civilian cars heading south and east.
Authorities said they were also struggling with a large number of displaced civilians attempting to cross the border into Iraqi Kurdistan.A ticking time bombAn estimated 450,000 people live within six kilometres of the border with Turkey “and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritize the protection of civilians,” a statement from 14 international aid organizations, including Doctors of the World and Oxfam, said Thursday.With the exception of Qatar, an ally of Ankara’s, countries lined up to criticize the Turkish offensive.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, summoned the Turkish ambassador to Paris.
“Turkey is today forgetting that the priority of the international community in Syria is the fight against Daesh and terrorism,” Macron said.
Donald Trump, whose decision to withdraw U.S.
troops from the area earlier this week effectively gave a green light to the offensive, said he would “hit Turkey very hard financially & with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules!”Norway, a NATO ally of Turkey, announced it was suspending all arms exports to the country.Iran, a close ally of Assad’s regime, called Thursday for “an immediate halt” to the offensive and demanded Turkish forces withdraw.
In a rare moment of alignment with its arch enemy, Israel also condemned the assault “in the strongest terms” and offered “humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”“Israel warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.
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