Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Turkish patrol kills Syrian protester amid shaky truce

Military vehicles were pelted with stones during joint patrols in Syria’s north-east

Kurdish demonstrators hurl rocks at a Turkish military vehicle during a joint Turkish-Russian patrol near the town of Al Muabbadah on Friday. AFP
Kurdish demonstrators hurl rocks at a Turkish military vehicle during a joint Turkish-Russian patrol near the town of Al Muabbadah on Friday. AFP

A Syrian protester was killed after being run over by a Turkish military vehicle on Friday as it drove through an angry crowd opposing a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in north-east Syria, Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said.

The protester was part of a group of residents who had chased and pelted the joint Russian-Turkey convoy with shoes and stones, prompting Turkish troops to fire tear-gas to disperse the protesters.

Ten people were hospitalised, according to the Rojava Information Centre, an activist group operating in Kurdish-held areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group based in the UK, said the man was run over in the village of Sarmasakh by a Turkish vehicle that was conducting a joint patrol with the Russians.

Friday marked the third time Turkish and Russian forces had staged joint patrols since a cease-fire agreement brought in last month. AFP
Friday marked the third time Turkish and Russian forces had staged joint patrols since a cease-fire agreement brought in last month. AFP

Videos circulating online on Friday show a group of men running after the Turkish and Russian vehicles as they drove, throwing stones at them.

In one video, a man is seen trying to mount one of the vehicles and then shouting can be heard, apparently after the man is run over.

Other videos from the area show men, women and children pelting armoured vehicles as they drive near a cemetery before speeding away.

Mutafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), tweeted that Turkish troops fired tear gas on protesters in Derik, injuring 10 people.

The town is controlled by SDF and American forces, but the Turkish troops were passing through on the patrol.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian military about the incident.

The fatal incident reflects the increasingly complicated political geography in northern Syria in the wake of the US decision to pull its troops away from the border and redeploy them further south.

The decision earlier this month was followed by a Turkish invasion in north-east Syria and a series of deals between Turkey and Russia, as well as between Damascus and Kurdish-led forces.

The Turkish Defence ministry said Friday’s joint patrol from the Syrian city of Qamishli to the town of Derik “has been completed as planned with due care and attention to the safety of our personnel and the public against the provocateurs”.

The Russia-Turkey deal endorsed a cease-fire after Turkey’s invasion and establishment of a Turkey-administered stretch of land, about 120 kilometres long, inside Syria.

The deal also arranged for joint Turkish-Russian patrols on the flanks of the Turkish-controlled area and for Syrian Kurdish fighters to withdraw from border areas, Ankara’s key demand.

Turkey considers Syria’s dominant Kurdish group an extension of its own Kurdish insurgency.

Moscow said Russian helicopters flew aerial patrols over the area for the first time on Thursday. Separately, Russia negotiated an arrangement that would allow Syrian government troops to deploy along the border.

Meanwhile, US troops changed their focus to south of the border to secure oil bases, controlled by the Kurdish-led forces.

The Turkish invasion and the shift of powers on the ground has been unsettling for residents of the area — many of whom are Kurds who have either fled the Turkish invasion or are feeling abandoned by US troops.

Nearly 200,000 have been displaced by the fighting, amid warnings of demographic change to the Kurdish-populated border areas.

Updated: November 10, 2019 10:14 AM

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