SYRIA: Afrin descends into chaos as Turkish-backed forces fight one another

AFRIN, Syria – Fighting between the factions of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) have once again erupted, this time in the occupied city of Afrin. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), fighters of Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Shamiyah exchanged automatic weapons fire in Afrin’s Al-Ashrafieh neighborhood.

Fighting continued throughout the day and included the use of light, medium, and heavy arms, as well as light artillery. All roads to Afrin have been cut. it is unclear if there are casualties amongst the amongst the militiamen or civilians.

As of this evening, several headquarters of Jabhat al-Shamiyah and the Free Syrian Police are being besieged by Ahrar al-Sham, who has sent reinforcements to Afrin from nearby Jinderes.

In-fighting amongst the groups of the SNA, a collection of militias with varying ideologies, including some extremists, has been a common occurrence in the areas under their control.

Prior to the Turkish-led invasion in January 2018, Afrin Region was considered the safest area in a Syria torn apart by war. However, the invasion led to the mass displacement of an estimated 300,000 civilians.

Shortly after the occupation took control, and even in the middle of the offensive to take the region, looting and extrajudicial killings were widespread, but particularly targeted were the region’s minorities and anyone thought to have been cooperative with the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria.

Similarly, factions of the SNA occupying Tel Abyad, Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn), and the surrounding area continue fight amongst themselves for control over looted materials from the area’s civilians.

On 2 May, members of Ahrar al-Sharqiya beat a civilian man in Turaybikh village south of Tel Abyad for “smoking cigarettes in the daytime during Ramadan”.

Turkey, who provides the SNA and its factions with training, weapons, ammunition, and financial support, is either unable or unwilling to prevent the abuses.