The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has called for a humanitarian truce and committed to suspending most military operations in northeast Syria so that warring parties can deal with the coronavirus.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces calls on all parties of the Syrian conflict to refrain from any military initiatives or actions,” Al-Monitor quoted the SDF, which is led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as saying in a statement on March 24.
“We hope that this humanitarian truce will help to open the door for dialogue and political solution and to put an end to the war in the world and Syria,” the group said, while adding that its members would defend themselves in the event of an attack.
On March 23, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire “to focus together on the true fight of our lives” and allow humanitarians to reach populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The SDF announcement came a day after the Kurdish-led group marked the one-year anniversary of its territorial defeat of ISIS in the group’s final stronghold of Baghouz in March. In the time since, the SDF has been stretched thin.
In October, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a sudden withdrawal of American troops from Syria, opening the door for Turkey to launch a long-planned military operation south of its border.
The White House decision was widely viewed as an abandonment of the SDF, elements of which Ankara views as terrorists because of their ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish military offensive displaced more than 200,000 Syrians, many of whom are now living in crowded camps and are especially vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak, the health authority in the Kurdish-led autonomous administration said March 24.
Of the 16 hospitals in northeast Syria, only one is fully functioning, according to the International Rescue Committee. Just two doctors are trained to use the 11 adult ventilators available to the hospitals.
The co-chair of the administration’s health authority, Raperin Hassan, told Al-Monitor on March 23 her government had received little support from the World Health Organization. They had contacted the U.S.-led coalition and the central government in Damascus for assistance, but hadn’t heard back.
In an attempt to prevent the coronavirus from reaching northeast Syria, the local authorities announced the closure of schools and the cancellation of public events, and recently imposed an indefinite curfew on the region.
In a video posted to Twitter on March 23, Gen. Mazlum Kobane, the commander in chief of the SDF, urged residents to obey the new regulations and be “vigilant, safe and secure.”