Syrian regime forces invade half of Turkmen territory

Syrian regime troops take control of 50 percent of predominantly Turkmen mountain area with aid of Russian cluster bombs, missiles

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

The leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition Khaled Khoja has told TRT World that regime forces have invaded 50 percent of the predominantly Turkmen mountain area near the Turkish border, with the assistance of Russian cluster bombings and missile strikes.

"After the intervention of the Russians, the regime has benefited from the cover provided by Russian war planes, especially the Russian use pf cluster bombs against civilians in the Turkmen mountain area," Khoja said in an exclusive interview.

"Fifty percent of the Turkmen mountain area is being invaded by regime troops now,” he added.

Syrian Regime troops and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad have launched an intense three day offensive, targeting Turkmen areas in Syria and most of the causalities of the offensive have been civilians.

"Most of the casualties are civilians, but fighters have also been casualties," Khoja said.

The attack on Turkmen towns by regime troops has caused more waves of refugees to seek refugee in Turkey.

"We are facing a humanitarian crisis there, the humanitarian aid is provided 100 percent by Turkey," he said.

Turkmen fighters and the Free Syrian Army made up of moderate opposition groups are trying to regain the ground which they have lost with help from Idlib province - which is under rebel control, Khoja stated.  

Around 5,000 Syrian Turkmens were forced to evacuate their villages and head to the Turkish border on Friday night following the regime operation in  Bayir-Bucak.

Syrian Turkmen who were forced to flee the area have sought refuge in any place which they deemed safe along the Syrian-Turkish border.

An eyewitness said, "We could not stand ground troops and air planes hitting us any longer."

Some of the displaced were able to move in with their relatives in neighboring villages, while others were forced to find refuge in makeshift tents set up under trees, President of the Syrian Turkmen Association of Doctors, Muhtar Fatih Muhammed reported.

"We need an urgent supply of tents, beds, blankets and food sent to this region," he said.

Earlier in November, Russian jets destroyed a number of Turkmen shelters and ammunition stores in the rural Syrian town of Bayir-Bucak and the battle is still ongoing. Most of the casualties have been civilians.

The Syrian coastal province of Latakia contains a total number of 358,000 Turkmens - and in particular - 20,000 reside in Bayir-Bucak village, according to statistics provided by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).

Since the start of the Russian bombing campaign on September 30, Russian air strikes have mainly targeted opposition-held regions rather than DAESH-held territory, killing civilians and factions fighting Assad's forces and clearing ground space for Assad to expand his control.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement regarding the recent attack on the Syrian Turkmens that "This attack shows how barbaric the Syrian regime is, this is an attack targeting civilians, we know Russian airlines participated in this attack."

Davutoglu warned, "Whoever attacks civilians and causes the people to flee their homes will be held responsible."

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic stated that Turkey has repeatedly warned Russian Federation Deputy Foreign Minister and President Putin's Special Representative for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov against targeting Turkmens in Syria.

Russia has stated that it has hit 731 targets in the past three days, however there has been no discussion regarding the deployment of ground troops.

TRT World correspondent Zeina Awad reported that Assad forces have been advancing into many Turkmen villages with the help of Russia’s air cover.

After bombarding areas in the Turkmen region in the northern countryside, regime forces targeted the Fırınlık, Acısı, and Avanlı regions of the Turkmen mountain area near the border city of Kasab in Latakia Province in a ground operation.

Violent confrontations have also taken place between regime forces and rebels around Zowek in the northern countryside of Latakia.

The Turkish Red Crescent has delivered humanitarian aid to the Bayır-Bucak Turkmen area. The aid includes food, medical supplies, clothes, blankets and school supplies.

TRTWorld and agencies