Turkey targets vital facilities in northeastern Syria

By Robin Omar

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press)— Politicians believe that targeting oil installations and vital facilities by Turkey is an act of sabotage that affects the security and stability of the region and the energy supplies that feed northeastern Syria in particular, and Syria in general.

The latest Turkish attack on vital infrastructure took place on September 14, targeting wheat silos in the village of Umm al-Keif, located in the northern countryside of Tel Tamr, north of Hasakah. This attack involved the use of heavy weapons. This is not the first time such facilities have been targeted by Turkish attacks.

Last year, a series of Turkish airstrikes targeted 26 locations in northeastern Syria over the course of a week. These airstrikes specifically focused on infrastructure and vital facilities, including oil and gas fields.

North Press obtained exclusive documents revealing the losses and costs associated with the rehabilitation of areas affected by Turkish strikes. The documents indicate that the total cost amounts to nearly $81 million, which is distributed across various sectors including education, health, agriculture, and energy.

Ongoing War

Ahmad Younis, Deputy Co-chair of the Agriculture and Irrigation Board of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), stated to North Press, “Turkish attacks on economic facilities, particularly wheat silos, have a direct and significant impact on the economic situation in the region. Wheat silos play a crucial role in ensuring food security in northeastern Syria.”

“The objective behind these attacks is to put most of the silos, which store grains, out of service, and thus negatively affecting the food security of the region’s residents,” he added.

Basil Abdi, a lawyer in Qamishli, told North Press, “Targeting oil facilities and vital infrastructure is a serious destructive act that violates international norms and laws. It has the potential to affect the energy supply security for northeastern Syria in particular and for Syria in general.”

“Targeting vital facilities, which are indispensable for the population, constitutes a war crime according to international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the protection of civilian populations in times of war,” he told North Press.

The international community, especially the signatory states of the Fourth Geneva Convention, must bear legal and moral responsibilities and take an urgent action to stop Turkish war crimes and provide international protection for civilians, according to Abdi.

Badran Chiya Kurd, Co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES, informed North Press, “The ongoing Turkish threats are considered a part of an ongoing war against our people. These actions directly affect stability and efforts to combat terrorism, especially ISIS and its affiliated sleeper cells. They also impact other fields, including energy, services, and the sector of living development which is overseen by the AANES and aims to improve the population’s living conditions.”

Unprecedented Migration

“These actions presage an unprecedented mass migration from the region towards European countries. Targeting vital facilities is a form of warfare that aims to disrupt the livelihoods and hinder the development of residents’ abilities and institutions,” Chiya Kurd added.

Turkey’s objective is to deprive people of their means of livelihood and prevent them from self-sufficiency. This impinges on counter-terrorism efforts and the political process aimed at securing stability and a desired solution agreed upon by all Syrians, according to the official.

He called on the international community and the US-led Global Coalition to work to limit such destabilizing practices to ensure stability and peace.

These Turkish practices are a new tactic of warfare against our regions after it failed affecting us using others means, and these efforts developed specifically after the events in al-Sinaa Prison in the city of Hasakah in January 2022, according to Chiya Kurd.

International Disregard

Basam Ahmad, head of the Syrians for Truth and Justice, a human rights NGO, stated to North Press, “These attacks cannot happen without an international disregard from both Russia and the US. This is not a good sign for the residents of the region who have already suffered from ISIS attacks. These powers are the very same allies who choose to ignore these attacks on the people and their infrastructure.”

Ahmad said that these attacks are seen as yet another method of displacement, following previous attempts through cutting off water. Turkey aims to maintain an atmosphere of insecurity in these areas and continues to target vital facilities, putting pressure on the residents.

Avin Jumaa, administrator at the Human Rights Organization-Jazira, in northeastern Syria, said, “Targeting vital facilities is not a new matter for the Turkish state. They have been targeting these facilities since the beginning of their occupation of northern Syrian areas, including Afrin, Sere Kaniye [Ras al-Ain], and Tel Abyad. In November 2022, they systematically targeted all vital facilities in northeastern Syria, including oil and gas facilities and grain silos.”

The Turkish forces occupied the city of Afrin and its surrounding areas in March 2018 and did the same to Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad in October 2019, through two separate military operations dubbed Olive Branch and Peace Spring respectively.

“The recent targeting of wheat silos in the rural areas of Tel Tamr, which is only a part of a series of ongoing attacks since 2019, aims to threaten food security and force people to migrate and leave their homes,” she told North Press.