Turkey-backed rebel groups seize thousands of olive trees in northwest Syria: SOHR

Turkish-backed Syrian Arab fighters walk in the streets after seizing control of the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on March 18, 2018. (AFP)

Turkey-backed rebel factions in northwest Syria have seized nearly 4,000 olive trees in the Afrin and the Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Thursday.

The trees belonged to civilians displaced to other areas. The armed groups also imposed taxes on olive crops and cut down trees in other locations.

The factions involved were Al-Sultan Murad’s Ninth Division and Suqour Al-Shimal, the report said.

Turkey’s military operates three occupation zones in northern Syria, in tandem with rebel factions backed by Ankara.

Formerly held by Kurdish fighter groups, Afrin was occupied in early 2020 in “Operation Olive Branch.”

The occupation was undertaken to stave off the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a fighter group that Turkey claims is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency since the 1980s and is designated as a terror group by Turkey and much of the international community.

Ankara faced criticism over alleged violations of human rights, such as mistreatment and forcible displacement of civilians, often committed by its armed proxies in the region.

There have also been allegations of plundering in occupied territories, with one implicating a prominent businessman close to the Turkish government.

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