While Ankara claims its ongoing military crackdown only targets “terrorists”, civilians often fall victim to the offensive – and not just in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated provinces, but also across the border in Syria where people suffer from cross-border shelling daily, RT reports.
Turkish authorities have banned journalists and human rights organizations from covering its military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Nusaybin district in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin.
The only way to get a glimpse of the ongoing military action is to observe the so-called anti-terrorist operation from the relative safety of a Syrian town of Qamishli, which lies only 200 meters away from the Turkish army’s positions.
But journalists on Syrian territory are under the constant threat of stray shells coming from the Turkish side. RT exclusive footage show Turkish military operation against Kurds from a local stringer.
At least two people including a child have been killed in Qamishli, according to an RT stringer on the ground, as a result of the cross-border artillery fire, which has continued at regular pace since early March, when Ankara launched the assault on Nusaybin. For over a month now, heavy artillery has been used against the civilian population of both cities.
On average more than 10 shells hit Qamishli daily, locals on the Syrian side of the border told an RT crew. Indiscriminate artillery fire destroyed many houses, mosques and other civilian infrastructure.
A local merchant, Muhammad Hasso, told RT of his painful experience when a shell exploded right in front of his stand and a bus stop where three people were conversing.
“Three people sat here, and all of a sudden we heard the whistle of a shell, followed by an explosion,” Hasso said. “Everything was destroyed by the explosion. Civilians are affected. The projectile came from Turkey. It was a tank shell.”
A 36-year-old local woman, Fatima Fattouche, was also severely injured by the shelling.
“I got out of a taxi and went to the bus stop, and then I heard the explosion. I touched myself and realized that I got a lot of shrapnel in me. Then I woke up in the hospital,”
In November 2015, Nusaybin, a town of 80,000, mostly Kurds, was placed under curfew by the Turkish government with military operations against the PKK fighters continuing in the district.
Over the border, Arabs and Christians, which make up a significant minority in Qamishli, alongside a Kurdish majority, were forced to flee neighborhoods that are geographically closest to the Turkish border as ongoing military operations pose a direct threat to their livelihood.
The military campaign against PKK fighters in Turkey began in mid-2015, after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement and revived an old conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
In breach of international laws, Ankara has also been targeting the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD), which it claims is linked to the PKK, as well as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.
Since then, the operation has been condemned by European leaders and human rights organizations. Almost 20,000 people have signed a petition, launched by RT last month, that urges the UN to investigate claims of alleged mass killing of Kurdish civilians.