Will Afrin's scenario be repeated in Tel Rifat?

Rumors spread about the status of Tel Rifat, the Russian and Turkish agreements over repeating the Afrin scenario, and fears of any military action in Tel Rifat in al-Shahba canton, which will cause a humanitarian disaster and the displacement of 25,000 civilians, while the residents organize themselves until they return to Afrin.

In the district of Tel Rifat (Arfad) in al-Shahba canton- the northern countryside of Aleppo- more than 22,000 residents of the city of Afrin live alongside 2500 of its original inhabitants.

After the occupation of Afrin canton in 18 March 2018, thousands of Afrin residents were forced to leave their homes and move to al-Shahba. They were distributed in the villages and districts of the canton where more than 22,000 people moved to Tel Rifat, which was like empty camps.

For its emptiness, they took it as a shelter camp

As a result of battles between armed groups and factions throughout the years of the Syrian crisis in Tel Rifat, especially between the armed factions and the regime forces in recent years, the rotation of international aircraft in the shelling of houses in the area resulted in the destruction of half the houses and the destruction of the infrastructure.

Thousands of residents of Tel Rifat turned to refugee camps in Turkey to escape conflict, while the area became uninhabited, not to mention whoever seized the area over the years planted mines.

After the Turkish occupation of Afrin, and forcing the people to leave their homes, there was no other destination or close to the land of Afrin, but al-Shahba, especially the area of ​​Tel Rifat, an area of ​​710 hectares to stay, until the removal of the Turkish occupation of Afrin.

The residents organized themselves until they returned to Afrin

The residents of Afrin and al-Shahba in the area of ​​Tel Rifat themselves managed their affairs; they formed a district council, established 15 communes to organize the people and secure their needs under difficult humanitarian conditions.

The residents also started to form the People's Municipality in the area, which sought to clean up the semi-destroyed houses and remove the rubble and to secure basic needs like windows, doors, water tanks and generators, while houses and places were still mined, causing civilians to lose their lives and injuring others, mostly children amid absence of competent organizations to remove and dismantle mines.

The Kurdish Red Crescent, along with the relief committees, have opened a humanitarian office to help provide relief medical and other services to the people.

The council also distributes monthly relief assistance to civilians, which was distributed twice a month, due to the reluctance of relief organizations to provide assistance and support, and the weakness of their potential.

Status quo…

Tel Rifat lies between the cities of Mare' and Azaz, which are occupied by the Turkish occupation mercenaries, and located 18 kilometers away from the Turkish border adjacent to the villages of Afrin. It is home to approximately 25,000 civilians from Afrin, Tel Rifat and other areas of Aleppo countryside, most of these houses are semi-destroyed or even some are completely.

The military patrols of the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries are intensifying in the areas of its concentration adjacent to Tel Rifat, in the context of the attempts of mercenaries to launch attacks and bombard the area from time to time.

On the night of April 12, mercenaries shelled the outskirts of the area in order to intimidate the people and instill fear of displacement of the population for the second time.

In addition, civilians and children were injured several times by Turkish shelling of civilian houses in the area.

The residents of the area opened shops, where some residents see it as "somewhat safe for crowded people, in addition to the availability of supplies."

Some residents, especially those who have been displaced, fear that they have been concentrated in Tel Rifat from another case of emigration, in light of the repeated threats of the Turkish occupation and their continued targeting to displace the population, said Fuad Khalil, a cafe worker.

Our agency during a tour of its correspondents in the area of ​​Tal Rifat met many people from various social strata in shops and markets, and houses and streets, while the questions of most of the parents, "there is a policy against us again, would we be displaced again? Where to go? While others expressed their hope to continue living in the region where security prevails.

In turn, the co-chair of Tel Rifat district council Muhammad Hanan confirmed that they are seeking to secure all the needs of the people under difficult conditions and a suffocating siege, and the indifference of any humanitarian or relief organization in providing support to civilians.

"In the event of any attacks or military skirmishes in the region there is a risk of a humanitarian disaster in the presence of a large number of displaced people."

There have recently been rumors about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Tel Rifat, and a Russian and Turkish agreement on handing over the area to the Turkish occupation, while points of the regime and Iranian forces still exist in the vicinity of the area.

Russia handed over some of the points that were stationed in Tel Rifat to the elements of the regime forces, and reduced their heavy weapons, but the Russian troops are stationed in the main centers in Tel Rifat and neighboring villages, with ongoing patrols in the region.

In light of the spread of news and rumors about the Russian withdrawal from the region, the growing fears of the people of the repeating scenario of the occupation of Afrin in Tel Rifat and al-Shahba canton, recalling Russian withdrawal from Afrin before the attacks of the Turkish occupation in 20 January 2018. The residents handed a letter to the Russian forces in March 18, demanding that Russia stop supporting Turkey and work to get Turkey out of Afrin.



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