What is Al-Hole Camp? Attacks on Kurds by Turkey's Erdogan Could Free Up Islamic Terror Detainees in Syria

The Syrian Democratic Council, a political arm of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria, has sought US help after Turkey threatened ground invasion of their stronghold.

The move came after Turkey said it will launch a ground operation against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered a days-long bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq.

The Syrian Democratic Council wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take action after Erdogan said the Turkish attack that 'neutralised' 254 terrorists was "only the beginning".

Protecting Al-Hole Detention Camp

Ilham Ahmed, SDC's executive committee president, expressed concerns that Turkey was seeking to occupy new Syrian land. He said a renewed offensive would undermine the SDF's ability to fight the Islamic State and secure the notoriously overcrowded Al-Hol camp.

The al-Hol camp, which hoses some 50,000 people, is the largest detention camp for suspected IS fighters and their families.

Armed Forces

The SDF said Turkish air strikes targeted the al-Hol camp. As many as seven security officials were killed at the camp, seriously undermining SDF's ability to protest the camp. "Our forces would be busy protecting our own people and families and we wouldn't be able to guard the camps," General Abdi said, warning that Turkish attacks will lead to eventual abandonment of the camp.

Turkey is Eager for Revenge

SDC's letter comes as Turkish war planes target towns across northern Syria in retaliation for a bombing on November 13 that killed six people and injured more than 80 people in central Istanbul. But Turkey's threats are nothing new. It has been ongoing since 2016.

Ankara seeks to reduce the US's role in Syria. And Washington's support for Syrian Kurdish fighters is a source of tension. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkish officials, on Monday, blamed the Kurdish militants for a mortar attack that killed two people, including a 5-year-old boy, in the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep.

A Turkish official said the latest military operation in Syria, dubbed Claw Sword, will ensure the protection of the Turkish borders and strike at the root of terrorism.

US Against Cross-Border Violence

While Washington stands with Turkey's right to defend itself, the Biden administration warned against cross-border violence. It believes this could undermine Ankara and Washington's shared goal of defeating Islamic State militants. A state department spokesperson said the United States has consistently communicated serious concerns to Turkey. "We have urged Turkey against such operations, just as we urged our Syrian partners against attacks or escalation."


But SDF commander Mazlum Kobane said such statements are not strong enough. He believes the U.S should do more. Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syrian analyst at the International Crisis Group, warned the SDF not to be dependent on Washington alone to deter Turkish military action. He highlighted that Turkey is an important NATO ally for the U.S. "No matter how bad the relations are, there is a floor to it. The U.S can and probably will impose some sanctions on Turkey if there is a Turkish ground incursion in specific areas. But beyond that, they won't blow their relations with Turkey over it."