By Vanessa Beeley
Vanessa Beeley in Idlib – Children are being killed, homes are being shelled, and fields scorched, often by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists armed with US-made weapons or by Turkish artillery. Where’s the outcry in the West against these war crimes?
23 Jul 2021 – UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres celebrated the extension of a “humanitarian” border crossing at Bab Al Hawa, on July 10th, as a “lifeline for millions of people” – many Syrians would rather describe it as a “lifeline” for Al Qaeda.
On the 15th July I visited Jurin, a village to the north of the Hama governorate and only 5km from the Syrian allied military frontlines with the Al Qaeda-dominated armed groups controlling Idlib, north-west Syria.
We arrived at around 9 am to the boom of mortar and rocket fire from the Jabal az Zawiya mountain that is under control of Turkish-backed armed groups. Jurin is in the Al Ghab plains at the foot of two mountain ranges and is an easy target for the elevated terrorist positions, occupying Jabal az Zawiya.
On June 20th, a three-year-old child, Massa Akram Saleh, was murdered by the armed groups who targeted her family home, injuring her father and brother, five-year-old Akram Saleh, whose body was lacerated by shrapnel wounds. Massa was rushed to Al Sqeilbiyyeh hospital, a journey of one hour, but later died. Her brother and father are still receiving treatment. Massa’s grandfather told me:
If this had been a child of the militants, the UN would have made a big case of it. Hundreds of children have died in our area but it is as if nobody died at all”
The grandfather describes a daily deluge of attacks from the Turkey-assisted armed groups, targeting the triangle of Jurin, Al Safafeh and Zkereh. He begs the Syrian forces to push the militants at least as far as the M4 highway and away from the region, to bring an end to the ceaseless aggression.
This is an aggression that apparently is not worth mentioning in UN reports on the cross border “humanitarian” activity. He thanks the Syrian Arab Army for doing everything they can to keep the extremist groups at bay.
While the grandfather is talking to me, a mother carrying a baby, hugging her children, is cowering and weeping in the background as the shells continue to fall. Next to her is Massa’s grandmother who cannot move without her walking frame.
One shell had hit the outer wall of the house just before we arrived, another had blown a two meter crater in the garden behind the extended family home. A third exploded five meters from where I was standing while I interviewed a second family member, Ghaith Ghazi Saleh. He told me:
We are being targeted on a daily basis with shells from Az Zawiya mountain. During the last two or three years we have seen Turkish convoys coming into the area not more than 2km from our farmlands, they prevent us from cultivating our farmlands [..] the artillery that bombards us is Turkish. The coordinates are provided by the terrorists”
Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East–on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine–while also covering the conflict in Yemen since 2015.
26 July 2021