Enab Baladi – Mamoun al-Bustani
The Internal Security Forces (Asayish) in northeastern Syria launched a security operation called ‘Humanitarian and Security’ ten days ago to pursue Islamic State (IS) cells in the ISIS camp. al-Hol, east of al-Hasakah, with support from Syria. Democratic Forces (SDF) and US-led international coalition forces.
In a statement announcing the launch of the campaign, Asayish said the campaign was the second phase of the humanitarian and security operation after the camp became a “permanent danger” exploited by IS in recruitment operations and the dissemination of his “incendiary ideas”. ”
Over the past two months, al-Hol camp has witnessed an upsurge in violence, crimes and killings. According to Asayish’s statement, the camp has witnessed the killing of 44 people in the current year.
Arrests and removal of tents
In the latest statistical statement on the results of the campaign in its first week, the SDF said in a statement issued by its press office that more than 50% of the camp had been combed through and that 121 people affiliated with the IS organization had been arrested, including 15 women.
As mentioned in the statement, the SDF and Asayish removed more than 100 tents on the grounds that they were “used as training sites and Sharia courts for torture and murder”. He also found 16 tunnels and trenches which were “used by cellular elements to hide or flee the camp”.
Ahed al-Salibi, a journalist with the Naher Media website responsible for covering news from the eastern region of Syria, said Enab Baladi that the second phase of the security campaign in al-Hol camp followed the continued killings in the camp, particularly in the past two months.
He noted that the camp has recently witnessed new methods of killing, such as killing and killing after capturing for several days, then dumping the bodies in the sewer system and killing in broad daylight, prompting the administration of the camp to act in order to prevent a worsening of the security situation in the camp.
Al-Salibi believed that the launch of the second phase of the campaign at this time was not only linked to the increase in killings inside the camp.
He added that the SDF has always focused on the issue of al-Hol and Roj camps in northeast Syria since the two camps were created after the declaration of victory over ISIS in March. 2019.
According to al-Salibi, the SDF will not abandon these two camps, even if only a limited number of people remain, in order to maintain their anti-terrorist rhetoric and keep them as a pressure card whenever Turkey tries to conduct a military operation in northeast Syria.
The first phase of the humanitarian and security operation started in March 2021, with nearly 6,000 participants from Asayish and the SDF. It ended with the arrest of 117 people, some of whom were released after some time, while others are still missing to this day.
Isolate Camp Sectors
At Enab Baladi an al-Hasakah correspondent earlier quoted aid workers operating inside al-Hol camp as saying that the SDF had transferred some of the people they had arrested in said camp to detention centres. detention in the town of al-Shaddadi, south of al-Hasakah, and another part in Ghweran prison south of the town of al-Hasakah.
These workers said that more than 50 of the removed tents were used to teach children to read and write, thanks to the individual initiatives of camp residents.
According to the same sources, the FDS removed the tents with the aim of dismantling the camp and opening spaces there to facilitate control and surveillance operations inside.
On September 1, the Asharq al-Awsat The newspaper said a study was being carried out by the camp administration and Asayish to isolate and separate the nine sectors of the camp, such as the one housing the families of IS members, which is under strict control.
The newspaper quoted a security source from the camp administration as saying that there were several factors preventing the isolation of the camp sectors, including the vast geographical area, the rugged desert and the dense population.
The source said intelligence information had reached the camp administration indicating that IS cells were seeking to control the entire camp. Therefore, studies are being carried out on how to geographically isolate the camp and separate its sectors.
Journalist Ahed al-Salibi said Enab Baladi that the FDS are working to establish three checkpoints in the camp. However, this step could be costly for the SDF if they are unable to detect all IS cells in the camp, as these checkpoints will become easy prey for these cells.
Although the SDF removed around 100 tents in the first week of the campaign, this did not solve the problem of dividing the camp and setting up barriers inside, according to al-Salibi.
Al-Salibi said that over the past two years, the SDF released 13 batches of Syrians detained inside al-Hol camp and five batches of Iraqis who were sent to Jadaa camp in Iraq. .
Regarding media reports that spoke of Iraq’s intention to transfer all Iraqis from al-Hol camp to its territory, al-Salibi said that several meetings had taken place between the SDF and the Iraqi side without succeed.
He stressed that the SDF would not extradite Iraqis from the camp to the Iraqi government without receiving something in return. As for the Syrians, some of them are released without any problem with the mediation and sponsorship of the elders of the clan.
At the start of the security campaign in al-Hol camp, two delegations from the international coalition and the United States visited the camp, according to the official website of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), August 31.
A member of the SDF General Command, Mahmoud Barkhdan, reviewed the results of the campaign with the two delegations led by the Deputy Commanding General of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve of the international coalition, Brigadier General Karl Harris, and the United States. The State Department’s special envoy to Syria, Nicholas Granger.
Barkhdan felt there was an urgent need for such a campaign at the moment. On the other hand, the two delegations affirmed their continued support for the SDF in the fight against terrorism and the elimination of IS cells in the al-Hol camp.
During the co-chair meeting of the AANES Executive Council on September 1, Granger said that his country was seeking a solution to the IS elements and their families in the al-Hol camp and that he was discussing with other countries for the recovery of their nationals.
In another meeting with Kurdish party leaders in the town of Qamishli, Granger urged Kurdish parties to resume dialogue and resolve contentious issues between the opposing Kurdish National Council (KNC) and AANES officials. .
Granger also reiterated his country’s rejection of any military operations Turkey might launch against SDF-held areas in northeast Syria.
The United Nations said last June that more than 100 killings had taken place in a year and a half in al-Hol camp.
The al-Hol camp is home to 54,390 people, including 27,816 Iraqis, 18,483 Syrians and 8,091 people who are family members of IS elements.