Russian defense ministry calls for efforts to prevent humanitarian disaster in northeastern Syria

WNM | Oct 13, 2019 at 11:04 PM

DAMASCUS/MOSCOW, October 13 (WNM) - Russia calls on all parties involved in the settlement efforts in Syria to work out measures to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the northeast of that country, Major General Alexei Bakin, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, said on Sunday.

“Seven prisons for Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) militants and at least eight camps for internally displaced persons, including wives and children of extremists, are located on the territories controlled by the so-called Autonomous Administration. of North and East Syria. According to the United Nations, the overall number of those kept in prisons and those staying in the camps may stand at about 120,000,” he said.

According to Bakin, people of 72 nationalities from 36 countries are kept at these camps and prisons. These facilities are guarded by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

“There is a real threat that many civilians staying in [refugee] camps [in territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces] may die of hunger and diseases,” he said. “We call on all the parties to waste no time to work out measures to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Syria. The problem of saving refugees and civilians requires urgent resolution.”

He also said that there is a threat that Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) militants who are kept in prisons controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces may break free, which will deteriorate the situation in the region dramatically. “All parties to the Syrian settlement must take measures to prevent such a scenario,” he stressed.

Earlier in the day, the Russian defense ministry published on its website a map of refugee camps and prisons for militants in northeastern Syria. As follows from the publication, as many as 14,650 people are being kept in prisons, including about 9,000 in al-Shaddadi, 1,600 in al-Hol, and about 1,100 in Hasakah.

Apart from that, according to the Russian defense ministry, eight refugee camps hold a total of 105,900 people. The biggest camp is located in al-Hol (up to 68,600 people). Up to 17,000 internally displaced people are kept in Qamishli near the Turkish border. Some 8,200 people are staying in the al-Isha camp, and about 7,200 — in the al-Arishah camp.

On October 9, Ankara launched an offensive in north Syria dubbed Operation Peace Spring, which began with airstrikes on Kurdish units. The objective is to establish a safety zone in northern Syria for protection of the Turkish border. In addition, Syrian refugees could return to that area from Turkey, Ankara believes. Syria’s SANA news agency slammed Ankara’s operation as an act of aggression. The world community has condemned Ankara’s actions.

On Sunday, Syrian Kurds said they had reached an agreement with Damascus on deploying Syrian government troops along the border with Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday that reports of Daesh prisoners escaping is disinformation meant to provoke the United States and the West, Daily Sabah reports.

Erdoğan spoke to reporters Sunday evening at a closed news conference at the Presidency's Dolmabahçe Office.

The PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) has been trying to use captured Daesh terrorists as a bargaining chip, hoping to provoke the West against Turkey by issuing false statements saying Ankara was targeting the camp with strikes. Turkey has denied multiple times any claims of strikes on the camp.

A witness said earlier Sunday that YPG terrorists deliberately started a fire in a camp for Daesh prisoners in northern Syria's Ayn Issa. The witness, who is a civil staff in Raqqa, Daesh terror group's former de-facto capital in Syria, said the YPG removed them from the camp prior to the fire.

"We are not eying the territory of Syria. We stand against those who want to divide and smash Syria," Erdoğan said.