The Kurdish “YPG” militia has announced its responsibility for the killing of the Eastern Ghouta militant commander Jamal Zaghloul, who was recently killed by a landmine blast in Afrin city.
The “YPG” said in a statement on Friday 4 May that it had been monitoring Zaghloul and waiting for the right opportunity to assassinate him, as it described.
The statement said that a patrol belonging to the faction “Faylaq al-Sham” had then gone to site of the explosion and was targeted by “YPG” fighters, leading to the killing of three “Faylaq al-Sham” militants and the destruction of their military vehicle.
The “YPG” had accused Jamal Zaghloul of responsibility for the displacement of the population of Eastern Ghouta from their towns, and for re-settling them in the Kurdish city of Afrin. Friday’s statement claimed that the people of Eastern Ghouta now living in Afrin were the target of a project by Zaghoul in which new residents were recruited as “mercenaries”.
Regarding the displacement of populations from other Syrian regions, the statement also accused Turkey of imposing a demographic transformation on the Afrin region by clearing out its native inhabitants and settling new ethnic groups.
Zaghloul had been killed two days prior to the release of the statement when his vehicle hit a landmine between the villages of Basouta and Kourzila in Aleppo Governorate’s Afrin region. Zaghloul’s wife, who had been accompanying him at the time, also died several hours after the incident.
Turkey began a military campaign titled “Operation Olive Branch” on January 20 in which it gained control of large areas of the Afrin region. The “YPG” has described the operation as an “aggression” by Turkey.
Factions affiliated to the “Free Syrian Army” gained control of the whole of Afrin city on March 18 after storming the town and making rapid advances against “YPG” fighters. After this, Turkish President Erdogan said he would take steps to rehabilitate the region through reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure, and would give the displaced population the chance to return to their homes.
Numerous displaced people from Eastern Ghouta, al-Dumayr, and the Qalamoun region have ended up in camps in Jindiris near Afrin city. Some have also gone to Afrin city itself during recent weeks, as well as the surrounding towns and villages.
Jamal Zaghloul was originally from the town of Arbeen in the middle of the Ghouta region, and was one of the founders of the area’s security apparatus following the 2011 Syrian revolt. Zaghloul had recently arrived in Afrin as part of a convoy of residents displaced from Ghouta following an agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Landmines in Afrin have killed both militants and civilians over recent months. Prominent among the militants killed has been Hassan al-Ahmad, a senior commander of “al-Faylaq al-Thani”, which is part of the FSA-affiliated “Syrian National Army”. Al-Ahmad was killed on February 22 during a de-mining operation in the village of Deir Souwan.