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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Syria refugee killed by rocket fire in Turkey was a devoted grandfather

Despite fleeing his home country for Turkey, the life of Nader Al Faris was still claimed by the Syrian war

Syrian refugee Nader Al Faris, 61, was killed in Reyhanli, Turkey, by a rocket fired from Syria on January 21, 2018. Courtesy of Hussein Al Faris
Syrian refugee Nader Al Faris, 61, was killed in Reyhanli, Turkey, by a rocket fired from Syria on January 21, 2018. Courtesy of Hussein Al Faris

Nader Al Faris expected the worse. Anticipating the violence that would soon engulf Syria, the retired army officer moved his family to southern Turkey in 2012, shortly after government forces began shelling rebel fighters who had taken over his hometown.

Soon after, all three of the houses Mr Al Faris had owned in Kfar Zeita, 30 kilometres north of the city of Hama, were destroyed by the shelling. Dozens of his neighbours were killed.

But in the end, Mr Al Faris could not escape the Syrian war.

On Sunday, the 61-year-old father of six was killed by a rocket fired from Syria as he took three of his grandchildren shopping for clothes in the southern Turkish city of Reyhanli.

The Turkish government and media said the rocket was one of several fired that day by the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia that the Turkish army has vowed to eradicate in an offensive that began on Saturday last week. About three dozen people were injured in the attack, including Mr Al Faris’s grandchildren, who suffered minor injuries.

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Mr Al Faris became the primary caretaker for five of his grandchildren two years ago when his eldest son, Mohammed, died after being accidentally electrocuted while trying to fix a water pump. Following his son's death, Mr Al Faris also took over his job as a private taxi driver. Mohammed’s oldest child is 10 years old; the youngest two.

Nader Al Faris (far left), 61, was shopping with three of his grandchildren and a family friend when he was struck by rocket fire. Courtesy of Hussein Al Faris
Nader Al Faris (far left), 61, was shopping with three of his grandchildren and a family friend when he was struck by rocket fire. Courtesy of Hussein Al Faris

“My father was a simple man,” Hassan, the second of Al Faris’s three sons, told The National. “His only goal in life was to support Mohammed’s children and their mother.”

Hassan said he would now take care of his elder brother’s children.

“I am their uncle,” he said, by way of explanation.

Mr Al Faris’s youngest son, Hussein, described his father as someone who would always indulge his children.

“When I was young and he went to visit his friends in the evening he used to carry me on his back, no matter how far it was. These are the moments that I will remember most," he said.

There have been reports of at least two more rocket attacks into southern Turkey since Sunday, though Mr Al Faris is so far the only person to have been killed.

Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesman for the YPG, denied his forces had fired rockets into southern Turkey, calling such reports “a conspiracy by Turkey”.

“The Turks are trying to cover the massacre of children in Afrin,” Mr Mahmoud said. “We are not responsible for such attacks.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring the conflict in Syria, says at least 22 civilians have been killed in the city of Afrin and the surrounding area since the start of the Turkish offensive.

Mr Al Faris's sons said their father had always hoped to return to Syria. On Monday, he did.

His family took his body to the border, where it was handed over to friends who still live in Syria.

"They buried him on a hill in Kfar Zeita, next to Mohammed," Hussein said.