A few hours after the Turkish military operation kicked off in northern Syria, we hurried to the town of Akcakale in the Sanliurfa province, which is the “zero point” between the two countries. It is from here that Turkey’s first forces entered Syria.
While the city was keeping quiet up until noon as if a war had not just erupted, we suddenly realized that things were hard on the front. Kurds from the Syrian city of Tel Abyad, 500 meters away from Akcakale, fired three rockets and struck the municipal building. Two people were killed, one of them being a baby.
The coffeeshop in which we had coffee and tea in the morning with the civilians and the police officers was evacuated, while loudspeakers around the city were warning people to stay at home or indoors.
The Turkish artillery is hitting targets inside Syria all day long, while the Firtina self-propelled howitzers even hit 40-km deep targets. In the town of Tel Abyad where the Kurds defend themselves, there is smoke. Some of it is caused by the Turkish shots that stroke around the area; but the Kurds themselves are also burning tires to prevent the unmanned Turkish aircraft flying around the area.
As we were writing this text, another rocket fell on Akçakale and we all fell to the ground to hide. It seems the scenery will be the same for many days to come.
At noon we were surprised to see hundreds of members of the Free Syrian Army, with armor, rockets and machine guns, accompanied by Turkish policemen, coming to the city and crossing the border to fight alongside the Syrian forces with the Troops. All of them were shouting religious slogans and at the same time Ottoman march songs were being heard from the loudspeakers on their vehicles. According to official data, 80,000 Turkish Army and 20,000 Free Syrian Army men are involved in Operation Peace Spring.
Dozens of police special forces are circulating in the city. The Turkish Armed Forces announced that 200 different targets had been hit and two villages had already been occupied. However, things in Tal Abyad show that the Kurds are swamped and that it will take a long time or non-stop shelling to occupy such areas.
The Turkish president said 342 “terrorists” were killed, adding that the operation was moving forward steadily. But where we are staying the 100,000 residents of the area wish and hope that all will be over soon, as it is very difficult to live under the sounds of artillery and rockets falling into the city. One striking fact is that most residents speak Arabic as their first language. Just around the corner there can be found Kurds battling.
At this point, journalists and cameramen from all over the world are in a hurry. Dozens of live broadcasts emmit images of battles and shelling.
On the first day of the operation the Turkish Armed Forces with the special Korkut system blocked both mobile and fixed-line communications, making it difficult for journalists. Later on that blocking stopped. Most journalists like us live in the city of Sanliurfa, a magnificent historic city with great growth and tourism. Yet the town of Akçakale reminds nothing of this beauty. It was like this before the war as well, though the military operations have made things worse. /ibna