Fear reigns in northeast Syria as Turkey threatens invasion - interview

David Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a Christian multi-ethnic humanitarian movement, has documented the destruction wrought by the airstrikes and reported on the ground.

 The aftermath of airstrikes in eastern Syria. (photo credit: David Eubank/Free Burma Rangers)
The aftermath of airstrikes in eastern Syria.
(photo credit: David Eubank/Free Burma Rangers)

Turkey has claimed it is carrying out attacks on “terrorists” in northeast Syria, but the people affected are civilians as well as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a partner force of the US currently in the fight against ISIS.

According to David Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a Christian multi-ethnic humanitarian movement, the strikes hit a number of towns and villages. Eubank has documented the destruction wrought by the airstrikes and reported on the ground.

One man was documented in a video saying that the people are being terrorized by the attacks, including a strike on a power station. “We heard the sounds of drones and then sound of rockets and like a bomb. We couldn’t know [at the time] what this attack was but immediately the electricity was cut off and we ran away.”

The Turkish bombardment in northeast Syria

People living in northeast Syria have been under bombardment for the last few days. At around midnight on Saturday night, Turkey launched airstrikes using jets, drones and artillery into the region.

The people living in this region represent different religious and ethnic groups – Muslims, Christians, agnostics, Yazidis, Kurds, Arabs among others – who according to Eubank, want it to be a place where they can live in freedom.

 David Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers in eastern Syria. (credit: David Eubank/Free Burma Rangers) David Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers in eastern Syria. (credit: David Eubank/Free Burma Rangers)

The videos and photos reviewed showed large impact craters from apparent airstrikes as well as the destruction of buildings and vehicles. Eubank added that a power plant was struck and 11 civilians were killed.

“They hit civilians,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “Everyone here [got] scared when they heard there may be a ground offensive.” He added that the West not standing up to Turkey is terrifying, that he hopes a land invasion could be avoided. “We pray to Jesus to stop this fighting.”

One video shows a huge crater from an airstrike between the town of Derik and the Iraqi border. The areas affected lie along the border from Derik down to Tal Tamr and then further west toward Kobani. These are all diverse areas with a large Kurdish population that also includes Christians, Arabs and other groups.

Many attacks struck Kobani, a city on the Syrian border with Turkey that resisted ISIS in 2014 and 2015. Other towns such as Tal Rifat, Al-Shahba, and Al-Darbasiya were struck as well. Eubank showed several photos and videos from an area called Talk Bukl south of Derik where a large airstrike left a crater.

The strikes carried on into late Tuesday evening. “I heard bombs go off just outside Kobani,” said Eubank.

“The Turks bombed a hill near Kobani one day ago, an area where there was a medical facility for patient overflow of a local hospital. A journalist suffered a head injury,” Eubank said.

“The Turks bombed a hill near Kobani one day ago, an area where there was a medical facility for patient overflow of a local hospital. A journalist suffered a head injury.”

David Eubank

There had been strikes on the hill the previous night. When people came to visit the area during the day, there was more bombardment and a journalist was injured. Eubank said he heard mortars impacting to the west and east, and some mortars hit an area near a school in a village he called Koran. There were also airstrikes to the west of Kobani, which may have been targeting a Syrian army position.

“Today there have been airstrikes and drone strikes outside of Hasakah,” he said. One hit near a base where US forces were training SDF soldiers, two of whom were killed.

He said that one of the airstrikes also struck an area the FBR had been helping farmers near an area called “Ali Farrow.” An airstrike hit an open area near a farm there, he said, adding that the Turkish military was striking targets all over the place.

They have directed these at the People’s Defense Units (YPG) and the SDF.

The FBR has been active in the Iraq and Syria region for a number of years now, helping locals, especially during the war against ISIS. They provide support, including medical aid, on the front line and also help rehabilitate communities with support, such as building playgrounds.

Now, Eubank is back in northeast Syria as another invasion is looming. Turkey launched an invasion in 2019, during which it carried out similar bombardments. Eubank said that families have asked him where they should go if there is another invasion.

According to him, many of the people living in the area now are those who have already fled ISIS back in 2014 and 2015 and have been trying to rehabilitate ever since. There are handicapped children who lack ways to escape the looming conflict.

“There is no reason Turkey needs to invade northeast Syria.”

David Eubank

“There is no reason Turkey needs to invade northeast Syria,” he said. He also noted there is nothing that can stop the airstrikes but hopes that a compromise can be made.

Eubank thinks the US should stand up and be a friend to its partners in eastern Syria. “I pray the US does not abandon the people here, that we don’t just stay here due to fear of ISIS but out of love for people and for some sense of democracy.”