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Today the Syrian military has once again bombed and shelled Ras al-Ayn, a town of about 50,000 in northeastern Syria just south of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Since last Thursday dozens have been killed in the bombing and shelling of the town; various reports place the total at about 100. Many of the bombs have been dropped from helicopters and aircraft within 500 meters of the Turkish border and several have been dropped within meters of the border.

Life in Ceylanpinar, the town in Turkey just across the border, has come to a standstill and schools have been ordered closed until at least next Monday.

More than 8,000 Syrians have fled across the border to seek sanctuary on the Turkish side of the border.


Has your appetite for outrage against Syrian President al-Assad been satisfied by this information?

Now let’s take another look at Ras al-Ayn and the recent events there.

Until last Wednesday Ras al-Ayn, a town with a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Chechens, had been a quiet peaceful town and its residents had no interest in fighting, battles or uprisings.

The town was under the nominal control of the Syrian government, with a relatively small Syrian military presence, and there was some involvement by Kurdish groups in the administration of the town.

Last Wednesday evening the FSA decided to attack and ‘liberate’ Ras al-Ayn - whether the local residents wanted it or not.

FSA fighters from outside the area began their attack last Wednesday night and, after heavy fighting with the Syrian forces in the town, occupied some parts of the town on Thursday and expanded their control over more of the town on Friday.

Much of the town is now believed to be deserted and under the control of the FSA.

On Thursday the KNC called on all Kurdish residents to leave the town and most did, primarily to the heavily Kurdish areas east of Ras al-Ayn and at least 8,000 residents of the town fled across the border to Ceylanpinar.

During the fighting on Thursday FSA fighters captured a young Syrian soldier and executed him by holding him down on the ground and slitting his throat. One of the FSA fighters thought it would be a good idea to take pictures of this and put them on the internet.

After the FSA had taken control of much of the town, the Syrian military began bombing and shelling the town.

On Friday the FSA began burning the homes of those in the town whom they believed to be their enemies.

The FSA also collected the bodies of the Syrian soldiers who had been killed and the bodies of many civilians who had also been killed in the attack - and were considered to be enemies of the FSA - by piling them up in the back of a pickup truck. The FSA fighters then took them and dumped them into a hole they had dug and buried them. They also thought it would be a good idea to film this.

The two commanders of the FSA fighters who attacked Ras al-Ayn are said to be extremely anti-Kurdish.

According to the local residents in and to the west of Ceylanpinar many of the FSA fighters crossed over the border from Turkey into Syria before they attacked Ras al-Ayn.

According to local residents one of the main reasons the FSA attacked Ras al-Ayn was because it has large stockpiles of wheat and pasta - there is a very large pasta factory in Ras al-Ayn - which the FSA needs in order to survive the winter.

The KNC is reported to be assembling its own fighters to the east of Ras al-Ayn - possibly to try to force the FSA out of Ras al-Ayn, possibly to be in position if the FSA decides to move east and attack towns in the Kurdish controlled areas of northeast Syria.


I have spent quite a lot of time in Ceylanpinar. I have several really good friends there. I have also spent a lot of time sitting near the border (almost everywhere in Ceylanpinar is near the border) and watching the everyday lives of the people in Ras al-Ayn.


I will be away for a while for a meeting. I will respond when I have have time.

Originally posted to InAntalya on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 07:40 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


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Comment Preferences

  •  do you have a citation for your information? (5+ / 0-)

    If I missed it, I apologize as my eyes are refusing to function properly this morning

  •  do you think that Turkey could... (5+ / 0-)

    .... use the principle of self-defense to strike back at the Syrian positions from which those attacks were launched on Ras al-Ayn, since the town is so close to the border?    ("You're shooting so close to the border that you put us in danger, therefore we will shoot back to put a stop to it.")

    Or would that be unlikely unless a Syrian missile overshot its target and hit Ceylanpinar?  ("Now you've hit our people, so we are going to take out whatever it was that shot at them.")

    What do you think the US government should do with regard to the fighting in Syria?  And what do you think the government of Turkey would like the US government to do?

    Also, if Assad were killed in action or captured by some kind of international force, do you think that would cause the Syrian government to fall, and if so, what do you think would happen after that?  

    What I'm looking for here is, some way for progressives in the US to arrive at something like a consensus about what our policy should be.

    We got the future back.

    by G2geek on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 07:59:02 AM PST

    •  The only consensus I can imagine (6+ / 0-)

      Is to seek a regional consensus on a course of action going forward. Vetoes probably make a UN SC consensus impossible, so the only option might be a regional/Arab League consensus. Which is only slightly less improbable I suppose.

      Absent a firm and widespread international consensus, I don't see how the US can do anything significant.

    •  If I recall, a few shots have been fired (4+ / 0-)

      there, but I think the concern is that 1. the border will become a war zone and 2. Turkey is currently protecting the 120,000 Syrian refugees in camps in this zone, and so they are attempting to create more peace. Bringing them further inland would offer more problems. Additionally, any resources invested in this venture, by Turkey, potentially opens deeper alliances up between the PKK and the Syrian Rebels, and the PKK -- who are in Turkey, throughout, but concentrated in other border regions (not Syrian) have been a source of a lot of conflict for the central government.

      This is an incredibly delicate situation, in other words.

      I think Turkey's best ally in this is probably France, from what we've seen -- as unlikely as that seems due to history, France has been outspoken about this. But the rest, it's unclear. Syria is in a state of civil war, period, and the rebel factions are not entirely loved by the people there either, especially as more and more are displaced. This is a different situation than, say, Egypt, where it was pretty clear that the rebels would wind up being embraced by the populace. Syrians are weary of the fighting and saddened by their losses (a close friend is Syrian and lives in the U.S. -- I get to hear a lot first hand).

      •  The Turkish side of the border is becoming (5+ / 0-)

        more and more unstable, something which I think the Turkish Government didn't consider when it began its support for the SNC.

        There have been a few incidents where bullets and mortar shells have been shot across the border, in one incident a few weeks ago five Turkish citizens were killed by a mortar shell and last week three were wounded by bullets in Ceylanpinar. Even the Turkish government admits that it is not clear who they were shot by.

        Growing numbers of Syrians are collecting on the Syrian side of the border because the Turkish government is not willing to allow them to come into the country unless absolutely necessary. This is a powder keg waiting to explode.

        Several towns on the Turkish side of the border are reportedly being abandoned by their residents.

        Most of the towns in the northern and eastern parts of the border are heavily Kurdish and if fighting breaks out in Syria between the FSA and the Kurds the reactions in these towns towards the FSA and their Turkish government supporters could be severe and deadly.

        Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

        by InAntalya on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 01:12:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is very much what I feel too (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, Aunt Martha, InAntalya, Quicklund

          As you know, I follow Turkish news in particular. I love the Country. Plain and simple. Someday, when I expatriate, well, it's on my short list at any rate. I feel very at home in Turkey.

          And it's in a sensitive spot. I think it was hard to anticipate this level of instability. I was not aware of restrictions for Syrian refugees growing more intense but not surprised. As you say, it's a powder keg. And with the PKK, all the more so.

          I pray that the situation diffuses soon, although I'm not sure what the best way to accomplish that would be, to be frank. I don't want the U.S. to step in, although I support our humanitarian attempts at offering resources. I just don't know what the right thing is to fix the situation, but I admit to being confused, and totally open to different thoughts because it is an unusual situation.

          Syria's geographic positioning and allies make it particularly vexing, both.

          I wish for the best.

    •  I don’t think that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the Turkish government could legitimately use these events to strike Syrian positions, but legitimacy is not always considered by politicians; often neither is logic - how could the Turkish Government condemn the Israeli Government for bombing Gaza and then try to justify bombing or shelling Syria?

      I think the US should stay out of it. The US could take the same position towards Syria as it takes towards Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc. - nothing to see here, move along.

      The Turkish Government would love for the US to intervene militarily in Syria, but the people in Turkey are overwhelmingly against it.

      Keep in mind that the Turkish Government is currently having great difficulty in dealing with the recent major increase in PKK terrorism and one government official has even said that it is fortunate that they (the government) don’t have to deal with fighting against an army.

      I think that there are a lot of governments who would be very happy if Assad were to be replaced (how is not very important), but with the current government structure in Syria remaining in place - to provide stability - and with there also being lots of vague discussions and promises of some sort of reforms.

      As to progressives in the US - I feel that it is most important for them to understand that a lot of the rebels in Syria are truly horrible people, please drop the romantic one-size-fits-all ‘they are all noble freedom fighters fighting for democracy’.

      Second, they should understand that the governments/rulers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. are not motivated by concern for the best interests of the people of Syria.

      And they could also question the currently popular propaganda that Syria is just (and has been for a long time) a ‘client state’ of Russia, Iran and China. Syria’s major trade and economic development partner - and the numbers are huge - in the 10 years before the current upheaval began in Syria was the EU, and the US had more trade with Syria during the same period than Iran did, and if I remember correctly the same is true for Russian-Syrian trade.

      Then it might be much more possible for a logical reasonable consensus to be formed.

      p.s. I apologize for the late response.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 04:08:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the reports (8+ / 0-)

    Your diaries are always interesting and well-worth the read. This news is depressing. Sounds like the revolt is fragmenting the country. And as much as I sympathize with the Kurds on an acedemic on-paper level, I fear they would use a disintegrating Syria to declare a Kurdistan. And that could send all the national borders in the region toppling.

    I thought I heard a blurb about Israeli artillery firing over the border into Syria? I was just waking up so I am not sure I heard that clearly. Have you heard anything about that? If Israel gets mired in this that would change the whole political dynamic and probably not in a good way.

    •  Antalya knows far more about this than I do (6+ / 0-)

      but jumping in--

      A day or two ago, the Israelis hit a Syrian artillery target in response to a mortar-round landing in the Golan.  That was the second straight day of light cross-border fire.  But it seems to have been the Syrians gov't overshooting their targets in a couple of instances, and the Israelis responding--rather than anything more direct.  It's obviously extremely tense, though.

      There was also an Israeli attack on a Hamas leader today--but unrelated.

    •  Fragmenting indeed (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, Quicklund, Brecht, InAntalya

      Syria is a shell right now. It's state is bad. The cities are largely burnt out. People are starving. The situation with the Kurds has always been a difficult one since they have no nation.

      Israel and Syria have been firing shots for a few days. This is blamed on Hamas and has been happening in Golan Heights, IIRC. Syrian rebels are taking power there. That seems to be escalating badly right now, actually.

      Additionally, Lebanon and Jordan have had border skirmishes.

      I think there is increasingly little tolerance for either Assad or the Syrian rebels, both in Syria and in the other, surrounding Nations. That's my read from here in the U.S.

    •  All of the information I have (5+ / 0-)

      indicates to me that the Kurds in Syria do not have aspirations for an independent 'Western Kurdistan'. They seem to be aware that this would not be economically or politically feasible. I understand - and believe right now - that their aim is to have an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria - something along the lines of a state in the U.S. which has local control of things like schools, local taxes, and local police forces and courts.

      I have seen several articles about the Israeli shelling of Syria. The first stated that a few mortar shells had landed in the occupied Golan Heights but had caused no damage, and that the Israeli government believed that they had come from rebel forces and that there would be no response.

      Then on the second day the media started to report that Israel was responding to these events. The problem I have is with the wording of the media reports.

      Some said that Israel was shelling 'Syrian military positions', some said that Israel was shelling 'forces in Syria', and some said that Israel was shelling 'the locations in Syria from which the mortar shells had been shot' - which leaves it completely unclear as to whether or not Israel was shelling Syrian government forces or rebel forces.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:20:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gah, what a mess... (6+ / 0-)

    On the one hand, I kinda "get" the FSA's strategy (not their tactics) to wrest control of the Syrian side of all of the border-crossings from the Syrian Army. Ras al-'Ain, iirc, is one of the last two (three?) crossings still in Army/regime hands.

    But is this the FSA per se, or is it (as some tweets of dubious reliability suggest) some combination of FSA and Jabhat al-Nusra forces? If so, who is actually in command?

    And are we seeing tensions between the PDY and the KNC regarding what to do here? Their recent rapprochement is uneasy, at best...

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:16:04 AM PST

    •  PYD, not PDY. yikes... n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Martha, InAntalya

      Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

      by angry marmot on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 09:19:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It may be an FSA tactic to take (3+ / 0-)

      control of as many of the northern and eastern Turkish-Syrian border crossings as they can, probably so that the FSA could be supplied through them.

      But if there is some plan to use these border crossings to supply the rebels and if the rebels and the Kurds begin fighting in Syria - which seems to be very possible right now - this will probably cause major problems for the Turkish Government.

      Any supplies would have to pass through heavily Kurdish areas in Turkey and there could very well be a strong reaction and resistance in these areas to supplies which would be used to attack Kurds in Syria being sent through them.

      If this is the plan it is not very well thought out, because it could result in activity and attacks by the PKK - and even people who are not PKK supporters - in these areas, which for many years have been quite peaceful.

      I don't know of any growing tensions between the PYD and the KNC. I actually have seen indications that they are working better together especially now that the better equipped and organized PYD would have to carry most of the weight in any FSA Kurdish fighting.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:52:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for your diaries, InAntalya. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, Quicklund

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