Camp holding IS suspects under threat if Turkey begins Syria offensive: Tol Hldan

A Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria could force SDF to abandon a camp holding tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State group (IS) members, an official responsible for al-Hol  Tol Hldan warned.

Turkey is on the brink of launching a military offensive east of the Euphrates, The YPG is a leading component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, which with US backing expunged IS from broad swathes of Syria’s northeast, rounding up many of the militant group’s suspected members and their families into the heaving al-Hol camp in the process.

“If Turkey attacks, we will lose control of the camp,” Tol Hldan, a media coordinator for the YPG, told Middle East Eye.

'When Turkey attacks, we’ll need to cover a long border. We’d need to abandon Raqqa and the camp'

Al-Hol holds around 70,000 people, the majority of them women and children. Most are Syrians and Iraqis, but there are thousands from across the region and the West as well. The inhabitants were living in IS-held areas, and many continue to profess support for the group.

The camp is in territory controlled by the SDF.

Turkey has long threatened to invade Syrian territory controlled by the SDF east of the Euphrates River, but in the past weeks, the threats have increased.

Turkish and US officials are locked in talks over the possibility of setting up a “safe zone” along Turkey’s border with Syria in an effort to stave off any attack, with negotiations entering their third day on Wednesday.

"We entered Afrin, Jarablus, al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates. We shared this with Russia and the US,” Erdogan said on Sunday.

Speaking ahead of Erdogan’s announcement, Hldan said the SDF would not be able to retain control of the camp .

“When Turkey attacks, we’ll need to cover a long border,” he said. “We’d need to abandon Raqqa and the camp.” Raqqa is the former IS capital.

The Kurdish official did not intimate that such abandonment would be immediate, or give an indication of speed or timeframe of a pull-out.

"An international court would be better in Rojava. If it's in a European country, some will say they didn't fight and after one to three months they'll release them. They fought here. We have proof and can judge them," Hldan said. 

The withdrawal would increase the IS sleeper cell threat in Syria, and also threaten Europe, according to Hldan. 

“If Turkey attacks, Europe will pay the most,” he said. “The sleeper cells will grow bigger.”



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