The coronavirus is not helping to stop the violence in Syria, where at least 45 people, including 11 children, were killed in an attack in the Kurdish canton of Afrin, in the northwest of the country, which has been under Turkish control since 2018, according to UNICEF. A fuel truck exploded in the middle of a busy market in the run-up to the end of Ramadan fasting, triggering the bloodiest attack in the country in recent months.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH) assured that among the dead there were at least six members of the Syrian Islamist militias fighting under Turkish orders. No group claimed responsibility for the action, but the Ministry of Defence in Ankara immediately accused the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it called “terrorist” and “enemy of humanity”.
The Turks have been in open warfare with the PKK for three decades. Two years under occupation Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch against Afrin in January 2018 and expelled the YPG from the canton. This operation provoked an exodus of thousands of Kurdish civilians who sought refuge in the other two cantons of Syrian Kurdistan and their place was taken by Syrian militiamen and their families from places like Ghouta in the rural belt of Damascus. Since the beginning of the Turkish occupation, the Kurdish population has represented only 34 percent of the canton’s population, compared to 97 percent before, according to data obtained by the Rudaw channel.
The Syria Democratic Forces (SSF), the Kurdish Arab coalition led by the YPGs, pointed directly to “the destructive policy of the Turkish occupation” as responsible for “this criminal act”. According to the Kurds, it was the Syrian Islamist militias loyal to Ankara that were behind the explosion and called on the international community to put pressure on Ankara to withdraw its troops from Rojava (Syria’s Kurdistan).