Omar Najjar had been married for just nine days when the center of Azaz was hit by a missile on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old was one of five civilians killed in attacks on Syrian opposition cities in northern Aleppo province.
Al Jazeera was unable to verify who fired the missiles, but the Syrian civil defense group known as the White Helmets said the missiles were fired from areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian government and YPG.
A family member of Omar Najjar, who did not want to be named, told Al Jazeera that “he moved to Azaz because it was a safe zone away from attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia,” in late 2019 as Najjar left his hometown of Kafaruma, near Marat al-Numan, as Syrian government forces advanced on the town, which Syrian government forces eventually took control of in early 2020.
Najjar eventually found work at a clothing store in the center of Azaz town — where he was eventually killed.
Tuesday’s missile attack came days after Turkish airstrikes against the mostly Kurdish YPG, which coincided with rocket attacks on Turkish and opposition-held areas in Syria.
Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has been designated a “terrorist” organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The latest escalation in violence comes as Turkey threatens to launch a new ground operation after the Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul, which Ankara blamed on the YPG and the PKK, although the two groups denied claims , there are fears that the security situation in the Azaz region, previously relatively safe under Turkish protection, will deteriorate.
One of the survivors of the Azaz attack, Hassan Khatib – a lawyer – said, “I survived death but the smell of blood pervades the place and I remember living in Marat attack on Numan.”
“I chose Azaz because it’s a border area and it’s safe because it’s far away from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad and Russia,” Hassan Khatib said, adding, “however , the Syrian Democratic Forces have attacked densely populated areas, and military clashes are increasing every day.”
Hassan Khatib said, “If Azaz, which we consider the safest place to live, is attacked, then I don’t think any place is safe.”
Firas Farham, a Syria researcher at the Istanbul-based Jusoor for Studies think tank, said the attack on Turkey indicated an escalation.
“Since the Syrian Democratic Forces targeted Turkey, it proves that the Syrian Democratic Forces are taking the Turkish threat to them seriously,” Farham said, blaming the Syrian Democratic Forces for recent attacks on the Turkish border.
Farham added, “Since the Syrian Democratic Forces seem to be concerned that Turkey will act on its threats, they are trying to influence the Turkish public by putting pressure on Turkey and attacking Turkish border areas to make it more expensive for Turkey. public opinion and embarrass the Turkish government as the presidential election approaches.”
While Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch a military offensive against the SDF before, Farham believes that this time could be different due to Russia’s difficulties over Ukraine. Russia, along with Western powers and Iran, has repeatedly warned Turkey against launching a new ground offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Syrian opposition forces, including the Syrian National Army, say they are ready to take part in any upcoming Turkish military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The leader of the Syrian National Army, Farouk Abu Bakr, said, “Our troops have previously conducted intensive training to prepare for new military operations that have been postponed for various reasons.”
Farouk Abu Bakr added, “The Syrian National Army is raising its combat readiness, the Turkish army is preparing for work, and at the same time, the Turkish president has issued a statement on the possibility of ground forces participating in the … operation.”