ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Hundreds of supporters from across Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan, rallied in Afrin in solidarity with the Kurdish canton.
Coming eastern Rojava cities of Hasakah, Qamishli, and Raqqa, they carried olive branches and photos of Kurdish fighters killed in action. They chanted slogans like “We are with you until death, Afrin.”
"Volunteers" and civilians have used Manbij as corridor to move to Afrin, Sipan Hamo, a commander with the Kurdish all-female armed force YPJ, said in a recent interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
Two and a half weeks into the military operation, “Turkey has not met any of its objectives,” she claimed. “It is now in the process of re-calculating its position because from the Turkish point of view there is no return from what they have started. When the Turks launched their operation, they thought they would achieve their objectives within days, but this did not happen."
The Kurdish-led SDF reported heavy clashes ongoing on Tuesday evening as Turkey’s military operation is in its third week.
At least three people were killed and more injured when a camp for displaced Syrians in northern Idlib, near the border with Afrin, came under fire on Tuesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the death of one child and at least two others in Atmah camp. Another 13 were injured, some severely, the Observatory noted, predicting that the death toll may rise.
Who fired the shells is not immediately clear. The YPG spokesperson in Afrin, Brusk Hasakah, said that a Turkish missile had landed on the camp.
Turkish media, however, reported that the camp came under YPG fire.
The Observatory said some sources reported the shells were fired by the YPG in Afrin, but could not confirm it. The conflict monitor also noted that persons living in the camp had protested against Turkey’s military operation last week, saying they did not want the area used as a staging ground for attacks on the Kurdish canton.
Turkey ready to take US to court
The YPJ’s Hamo confirmed that their forces are not receiving support from the United States in Afrin.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News that they will not support any troops who leave the anti-ISIS operations in eastern Syria to fight Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies in Afrin.
Hamo confirmed, "We did not receive any American support in Afrin or Shahba."
Weaponry they are using was also not supplied by the United States, she explained.
"The missiles are neither American, nor Russian. But they are thermal missiles that we obtained on the black market," she said.
Ankara is irate about the United States’ support, especially supplying arms, for the Syrian Kurdish groups, which Turkey believes are extensions of the PKK.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday that they are ready to take the United States to court over Washington’s support for the Kurds. “We will take necessary steps during bilateral meetings and in international courts,” he said, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
He also repeated his threat to extend the military operation to Manbij, saying, “We will come to Manbij to hand over these territories to their rightful owners.”
Manbij is currently under the control of the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council. US forces are also stationed in the area, and have said they have no intention of leaving in the near future.
The YPJ’s Hamo said Manbij will remain under Kurdish control "unless an international agreement or plot is made."
She was less confident about Russia’s continued presence in the Manbij area.
"Maybe there will be an agreement with Russians that would allow the Turks to arrive at Arima near Manbij where the Russian army has established a point," she said.
It is believed Moscow gave Turkey the greenlight for its operation by withdrawing its forces from the Afrin area.
Hamo said they maintain a channel of communication with Russian forces stationed in Tal Rafaat.
Syria deploys air defences
A commander among the pro-Syrian regime forces said the army had deployed air defences and anti-aircraft missiles to frontlines that are near Turkish locations.
“They cover the air space of the Syrian north,” the commander told Reuters, including Afrin.
The move comes after a Russian plane was shot down over Idlib last week by al-Qaeda-linked Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra. The Russian pilot Maj. Roman Filipov ejected, but blew himself up with a hand grenade rather than be taken captive by the militants.
His body has been returned to Russia where he was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Russia for “the bravery, courage and fortitude that he demonstrated while fulfilling his military duty,” the Kremlin stated in a press release.
Filipov will be buried on Thursday, according to Russia’s TASS news. His body was recovered by Turkey.
The YPJ’s Hamo said they would like to see more support from Damascus against Turkey’s operation in Afrin. So far, she said, they have only received humanitarian aid and medical support.