Turkey has facilitated the departure of close to 40 Iraqi families with previous ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from an area in northern Syria under the control of Turkish-backed rebel fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Saturday.
The area, under the control of Turkish-backed fighters since the cross-border Operation Peace Spring against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2019, straddles the Turkish-Syrian border.
Upon their entry into Turkish territory through the town of Ras Al-Ain, the families are to be handed over to the Iraqi government, SOHR said, citing sources on the ground. The operation was reportedly coordinated by the Turkish consulate in collaboration with the Iraqi government.
Turkish intelligence, working with the the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) and its affiliates, orchestrated the relocation of these families, according to SOHR, in an apparent bid to ensure the area under Turkish-backed control remains devoid of ISIL elements. While some families left voluntarily, others were reportedly compelled to leave for Turkish territory.
The US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now the Kurds’ de facto army in northeast Syria, have played a key role in removing ISIL fighters from the territory they seized in the country.
Ankara strongly opposes the YPG, the main element of the US-backed SDF, because of its links to PKK militants who have waged a long insurgency in southeastern Turkey.