A female fighter within the Kurdish People’s Protection Units paramilitary group has blown herself up amid an ongoing offensive by Turkey-led forces in Syria’s Afrin regional sources report. Sources following developments on the ground in Afrin are reporting that a Kurdish female fighter by the name of Avesta Khabur committed the suicide attack to in an attempt to turn back an armored assault by the Turkish Army.
The incident is said to have taken place in the village of Hemmam and that it resulted in Avesta Khabur taking the lives of several Turkish troops along with her own as well as the destruction of a battle tank. However, sources are vague about the conditions in which Avesta Khabur carried out the suicide bombing.
It is hard to believe that it was a preempted Islamist-style martyrdom operation in the fashion that jihadist factions carry out such attacks as it is an unusual tactic for Kurdish groups. Rather it is likely the case that Avesta found herself surrounded by enemy forces and–seeing no way out–then committed to the suicide attack against the Turkish Army.
The YPJ-General Command (YPJ is the all-female Kurdish military organization parallel to the YPG) released an official statement which described Khabur's actions as follows: "she attacked with her grenades a Turkish tank which was trying to enter Hemmam village. As such she exploded her body and destroyed the tank."
Earlier on Sunday, the Turkish Armed Forces managed to capture the strategic mountaintop of Jabal Barsaya in the northeastern part of the Afrin Canton, which overlooks many Kurdish villages. This was later confirmed the Turkish regime, as their troops continue to move through heavily fortified areas controlled by the predominately Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the moment and seized on images of soldiers planting the Turkish flag at the top of Jabal Barsaya to energize his political base during a speech Sunday while claiming "484 terrorists have been killed so far" in reference to US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters. He stated enthusiastically after proclaiming the death of "terrorists" that, "this will keep getting better!" while adding that thanks to the operation "people have literally found peace".
Footage of both the mountaintop advance and Erdoğan's speech can be seen in the following pro-Turkish media clip:
In other related developments, on Saturday Kurdish activists in northern Syria accused the Turkish Air Force of using internationally banned napalm bombs over the Afrin Canton in northern Aleppo.
“The Turkish army uses the forbidden weapon napalm in Afrin against civilians,” Syrian-Kurdish politician Îlham Ehmed tweeted last night.
While no visual proof has been released, several Kurdish activists in northern Syria took to social media to accuse the Turkish Air Force of using the munitions. In addition to accusing the Turkish Air Force of using napalm, Kurdish activists also claimed that the former bombed archaeological sites inside the Afrin Canton.
Meanwhile, Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) ground forces continue to advance on villages on the edges of Afrin Canton. Though Turkey claims it is "bringing peace" to the area, several FSA media accounts have released videos showing its Islamist fighters declaring their intent to conduct ethnic cleansing against the "atheist Kurds".
Below is one such widely circulated video released over the weekend:
Though a number of such videos with threats of genocide by invading Turkish and FSA forces have made the rounds over the last week, and though President Erdoğan himself in public speeches of late has used similar language, mainstream media in the West has continued to be mild or completely silent in its criticism of Erdoğan or the Turkish military invasion of Syria.
Indeed Erdoğan has recently vowed "to give Afrin back to its real owners" while claiming that "55% of Afrin is composed of Arabs with 35% of Kurds coming there later on". Such language of militarily forced "demographic shift" inside another nation's sovereign territory by Turkish leadership has gone relatively unreported in major international press.
On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) - a Syrian opposition outlet in England which has long been a favored source for mainstream media - reported 42 civilian casualties among the Kurds, Arabs and Armenians killed by the Turkish shelling of Afrin. As reported by SOHR "about half of them are children and women".
SOHR further reports a total of 144 killed among soldiers and paramilitary factions on both sides of the fighting, now in its ninth day.