'Nowhere to run': Australian woman in Syria fears for Kurds as Turkey steps up assault

Australian documentary maker Giselle Hall says the Kurds in Syria are willing to fight. Source: Supplied

An Australian woman in Syria fears for the future of Kurdish people in the border region.

An Australian documentary maker in Syria says there is a sense of fear, but also strength among Kurdish people under attack from Turkey.  

The former aid worker returned to Syria recently to make a documentary about the children of foreign fighters but the Turkey military offensive has put her plans on hold. 

Instead, she travelled to the border town to record the reaction of Kurds to the shock withdrawal of US troops from the area early last week. 

Giselle Hall is making a documentary in Syria.
Giselle Hall is making a documentary in Syria.

In Ras al-Ain, Giselle Hall and her team spoke to several residents just hours before the shelling began on Wednesday. 

“The common theme from speaking to lots of people there was really about unity," she said.

"People really wanted to emphasise that everyone was coming together, Kurds and Arabs and Syriacs and all the different groups are coming together to defend Syrian territory.”

Ms Hall is now staying in Dayrik, also known as Al-Malikiyah, about 20km from the Turkey border. 

"The town itself has been safe so far but at night time we can hear some shelling in the nearby villages."

'Nowhere to run'

She said there was also a lot of fear among families who could hear the shelling getting closer to their homes. 

Ms Hall spoke to one mother whose frightened children were begging her to leave. 

“For this mother, it was so difficult to tell them to stay, to be calm because she felt there was nowhere for her to run.”

It's estimated that more than 100,000 people have fled since Turkey launched its attack on Wednesday, and many towns are already overstretched from previous displacements.

"People are going to one town that they think is safe, and then it’s not, so they’re going to the next place and then they find there’s bombing at the next place."

But Kurds, who have been repeatedly caught in the middle of conflicts in the Middle East, are vowing to resist Turkey's military. 

"People here are really proud and really strong and they’ve already lived through so many years of war, many people told us they’re willing to fight."

Australian filmmaker Jake Simkin films a rally in Ras al-Ain hours before shelling broke out.
Australian filmmaker Jake Simkin films a rally in Ras al-Ain hours before shelling broke out.

Turkey steps up assault

Their resolve will be tested as Turkish soldiers and militia allies step up their assault on Kurdish-held towns in defiance of mounting international protests and threats of US sanctions.

After overnight clashes with Kurdish forces in the countryside, Turkish troops and their Syrian allies entered the battleground town of Ras al-Ain, sources on both sides said.

Turkey's defence ministry hailed its forces' capture of the first Kurdish-held town on the fourth day of their offensive.

But Ras al-Ain's Kurdish defenders denied the semi-deserted town had fallen and an AFP correspondent said Turkish troops and their Syrian allies had entered but had yet to capture it.

A human rights monitor has also reported that pro-Ankara fighters taking part in the offensive "executed" at least nine civilians including a female politician on Saturday.

"The nine civilians were executed at different moments south of the town of Tal Abyad," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

The Kurds said a Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf and her driver were among those killed.

With additional reporting by AFP

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