TAL TAMR, Syria – While the Pentagon has ordered the withdrawal of most U.S. troops in Syria, others are now heading in to secure the country’s eastern oilfields and ensure ISIS can’t use the revenues from that oil to reconstitute their failed caliphate. But the Turkish military is taking advantage of the fact Americans have left the northern buffer zone, with devastating consequences for the civilians in that area.
Turkey and Russia now patrol northern Syria side-by-side as Turkish President Erdogan moves ahead to annex much more land bordering his country. Local Syrians showed their displeasure by pelting a Turkish patrol with rocks near the town of Derrik.
Turks fired what they claim to be tear gas to disperse the protests. The questionable chemical, however, sent ten unconscious people to the hospital – something rarely caused by tear gas. One protester was run over by a Turkish vehicle and later died.
Doctors at this hospital in Tal Tamr have treated more than 700 patients so far.
“The Kurds in this area have faced so much injustice from this invasion, and we sometimes feel powerless to stop the bloodshed,” said Dr. Chevin Hasan.
Many of the wounded at this hospital are clearly victims of Turkish drone attacks. Dave Eubank, leader of the Free Burma Rangers aid group has been working in this area for more than three weeks.
“We were at a mobile casualty collection point, we had to hide our vehicles because of Turkish drone strikes, and in the last three days, 26 people have been killed by drone strikes in this area alone,” Eubank said.
It is clear these drones are going after more than just military targets. Eubank’s own marked ambulance took a hit on November 2, wounding two and killing one of their ethnic Kachin medics, 37-year-old Zhau Seng. He died on his baby daughter’s first birthday.
But Turkey’s president is undeterred, vowing to continue the fight against what he calls terrorists, while local aid groups estimate more than 300,000 have fled the area. Meanwhile, medical people on the ground have labeled these civilian drone strikes as war crimes.
“And so we ask for a stop to the Turkish drones,” Eubank said. “Five ambulances have been taken out earlier. And so this has got to stop, it’s evil.”
“All we want is to be able to live in peace like any other nation. We just hope President Trump will remember us and maybe he can do something to help our situation,” Hasan said.