Four killed as Turkish forces violate ceasefire to strike Ain Issa

Turkish and Free Syrian Army forces on Saturday attacked Ain Issa, a Syrian town well outside the “safe zone” the Turkish government claims to be establishing along the border with northeastern Syria. A humanitarian organization reported four people were killed and 22 wounded in the offensive, including civilians.

The attack was captured on video by the US humanitarian organization Free Burma Rangers. Airstrikes can be seen pummeling the area while gunshots ring within close distance. The organization’s leader, a former US Special Forces officer named David Eubank, posted gruesome photos of injured civilians being treated at Kobane hospital.

Both the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syriac Military Council confirmed the attack on Twitter, describing an assault on multiple fronts with the aid of armed drones, artillery, and Turkish air support.

The Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the SDF which administrates the autonomous government in northeastern Syria, released a statement on its website claiming that the Turkish objective is to control the M4 highway, which links strategically important towns in northern and eastern Syria, and to gradually occupy Syrian territory beyond the initially proposed “safe zone,” set to run along a 480 kilometer stretch of the Turkey-Syria border and extend 32 kilometers deep into Syria.

Ain Issa and Tel Tamr, both sites of heavy fighting between Turkish and SDF forces, sit about 10 kilometers beyond the deepest delineation of Turkey’s proposed buffer zone.

Ilham Ahmed, the President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, tweeted: “SNA mercenaries forces supported by Turkish airpower started their operation today on the city of Ayn Issa. Turkey is telling the world that it ended the campaign against Tal Abyad and Ras Al Ayn to start [a] new offensive again [in] Ayn Eissa. Gradual occupation for the entire North.”

The SDF also took to Twitter, castigating the Russian military deployed in the area for failing to enforce the ceasefire agreement.

“This attack was carried out in front of the eyes of the Russian forces who did nothing to intervene or stop the attacks. The Russian military is supposed to be a guarantor for the implementation of the cease-fire agreement but they have failed to play their role,” the tweet read.

“These events raise doubts about the capability of Russia to enforce the cease-fire deal brokered by themselves and furthermore raises questions regarding their role as a guarantor for the possibility of reaching a political solution for Syria.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier on Sunday morning that after intense Saturday fighting and a number of Turkish drone strikes on Sunday morning, a “cautious calm” prevailed in Ain Issa after a flyover by warplanes believed to be Russian. It is believed that all pro-Turkey forces have withdrawn to positions at least 2 kilometers north of Ain Issa, in accordance with negotiations between the Turkish and Russian governments.