Turkey’s aggression impacts civilian infrastructure in NE Syria

By Shella Abdulhalim

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) Turkish forces’ widespread and frequent targeting of Northeast Syria’s infrastructure appears primarily designed to instill terror among the population in violation of the laws of war. Numerous airstrikes and drone attacks in the months of October and December of 2023 have deprived millions of civilians of at least temporary access to electricity, water, heating, and related vital services ahead of the cold winter months. 

The Turkish attacks have also killed at least 176 civilians and injured 272 others in 2023. According to the Monitoring and Documentation Department of North Press, the attacks on Oct. 5, to Oct. 8 alone killed and injured over 28 individuals, and interrupted access to power for hundreds of thousands throughout Northeast Syria. 

Destroying the infrastructure 

From Oct. 5 to Oct. 9 of 2023, with more than 580 air and ground strikes, Turkey attacked 104 sites, including vital infrastructure such as power, gas, and water stations and educational facilities. 

Director of oil fields in the town of Rmelan in far northeastern Syria, Ahmad Ibrahim said the value of damages caused to the infrastructure by the Turkish attacks on northeastern Syria exceeds millions of dollars. He told North Press the total losses and damages, according to the global prices and value of oil and gas, power generation stations, sub-stations, reconstruction costs, and damages resulting from a halt in production, exceed one billion and 270 million USD. 

On Oct. 6, 2023, the Sweidiya gas and power facility was completely out of service as a result of the attacks. The turbines that generate electricity for the cities of Hasakah, Qamishli, Derbasiyah, and Amuda were targeted twice, depriving civilians of at least temporary access to electricity. 

The power stations of the Sad Gharbi in Hasakah was targeted. Also, the station in Qamishli, Amuda, and Tirbe Spiyeh (al-Qahtaniya) went out of service. 

Ziyad Restum, co-chair of the Energy Office of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), told North Press, that the attack affected the entire service sector, including electricity, drinking water, mills, and some health facilities due to the lack of electricity in the area.

 The Foreign Relations Department of the AANES stated in a press conference that the Turkish attacks “left more than two million people without services such as water and electricity.” 

Public service projects 

Moving forward to Dec. 23, 2023, as the world watches the Turkish aggression of Northeast Syria unfold, Turkish warplanes resumed their aggression and carried out several airstrikes targeting infrastructure and oil facilities in the countryside of the cities of Qamishli and Derik (al-Malikiyah).

The Turkish warplanes targeted the Agricultural Bank, Sa’eeda oil field, and Oda oil field near the town of Tirbe Spiyeh (al-Qahtaniya) in the eastern countryside of Qamishli. 

Turkey also conducted over 10 airstrikes in the countryside of Derik, far-northeastern Syria; the airstrikes targeted Sabi’a (seventh) facility for generating electricity in Derik.

The Turkish forces have targeted 930 sites in Northeast Syria since the beginning of 2023, resulting in civilian casualties as the majority of targeted sites are residential areas, the latest attacks occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 26 and targeted infrastructure and service facilities, as well as small projects in several cities, damaging the economy of the region. 

These ongoing attacks have had a devastating impact on the people and infrastructure of Northeast Syria, with significant consequences for the daily lives of civilians and the overall stability of the region. 

Small civilian projects 

The recent wave of airstrikes, between Dec. 23 and Dec.26 of 2023, targeted 33 sites including an industrial facility in the Allaya neighborhood near a prison that detains militants of the Islamic State group (ISIS), Simav printing house, grain silos, a cement facility, a lentil mill, a clothing factory, and the train station. All are in the city of Qamishli. In addition, the Turkish forces bombed the village of Segerka and a cement factory in the village of Shork in the east of Qamishli. 

On the outskirts of Qamishli, a facility serving as both a mill and a cotton gin in the village of Umm al-Fursan was targeted during working hours, resulting in the killing of one female worker and the injury of two other workers. 

A straw factory in Qamishli was also subjected to an attack, leading to the burning of straw and significant damage to machinery, power generators, and the interior and exterior ceilings of the factory. The strikes also hit a warehouse for soft drinks, resulting in a substantial material damage, and Rohlat Alo factory for producing canned olives, olive oil, and other related products, causing losses of up to $200,000. 

Turkey commits “genocide” 

Intentionally targeting civilians, infrastructure, and vital facilities is considered a war crime according to the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, specifically in Article 53 and Article 54, as well as the two Additional Protocols that prohibit targeting infrastructure.

Attacks carried out by any means that target civilians and civilian objects are prohibited, as stated in Article 51 of Protocol I and Article 13 of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Furthermore, any attacks targeting objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population are also prohibited according to Article 54 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which is considered a reference and basis in international humanitarian law.

Targeting infrastructure and civilian objects can amount to the level of genocide, according to Article 6, section (c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

However, Turkey, by deliberately and continuously targeting Northeast Syria under the pretext of combating terrorism, clearly and explicitly violates these laws and causes instability in the region.  

Editing by Jwan Shekaki