Monday, 15 February 2016

The people at the Turkish border are not fleeing from Aleppo city.


Via Facebook, via Petri Krohn

1) The people at the Turkish border are not fleeing from Aleppo city. This would be impossible, as they would have to cross the battle lines twice and pass through government-held territory. If anyone from the rebel-held east Aleppo was actually fleeing to Turkey, they would have to go west to Idleb province and enter Turkey at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

Map source: AFP Graphics

2) The internally displaced people at the Turkish border fence at the Bab al-Salame border crossing are all coming from within the Azaz corridor. The whole area is about to fall in the near days to Kurds, the Islamic State or to the Syrian Arab Army. Unless it is taken over by a Turkish invasion force or maybe by Russian peacekeepers.

3) There is no "offensive" in Aleppo city at the moment. The battle lines between rebel-held east Aleppo and government-held west Aleppo have remained relatively constant for the last 3 years.

4) The number of people in rebel-held east Aleppo has been estimated to be under 50,000 people. (The number 350,000 might be the number of people in all of rebel-held Aleppo province.)

5) It is the 1.5 million people in government-held west Aleppo that have been under siege and "trapped" for large part of the last 3 years. The desert road connecting Aleppo to the rest of Syria was last opened only in November 2015, after a ISIS and moderate rebel offensive that once again blocked it.

Waiting for the gate to open - Bulent Kilic, AFP, February 9, 2016

I’ve been photographing this war for five years and right now it’s one of the critical points in this conflict. One of the critical points before came when the opposition took over the main road between Turkey and Aleppo.

And now the regime and the Russian forces are trying to take this road back. This is important, because it’s the main road to the people still inside Aleppo. If the regime retakes it, you will have a huge exodus of people pouring out and coming here, to the gate. Hundreds of thousands will come. The opposition fighters, their families.

And if they come and if Turkey still won’t open the gate, they’ll just spread out along the border fence and push through, like they did before.

I was here in June, when you had Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists for control of Tal Abyad village. As the fighting raged, all of the sudden thousands of people appeared from behind a hill and swarmed toward the border fence and pushed through it. It all happened within a matter of minutes.

That’s exactly what will happen if more people arrive here and Turkey doesn’t open the gate. They’ll just push through.

To be sure, there is a difference between now and last June. Last June, the people were literally running from a war that was raging a kilometer behind them.
Today, they’re fleeing fighting that for the moment a way’s away. The balance of power is changing and they have to run again.

But if thousands more come and if they don’t open the gate, they’ll go to the fence. And if thousands of them go to the fence, there’s nothing you can do. You can’t shoot them as they’re trying to climb over it. Turkey will have no choice but to open the gate.

I guess you can say that for the moment, the refugees gathering here don’t have the same type of urgency. Or rather, there is urgency, but there isn’t the same edge. They all asked me “When are they going to open the gate? When are they going to open the gate?”

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