UN official says they continue to receive disturbing reports from Afrin

File photo.

Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, has said they continue to receive disturbing reports out of Afrin of civilian deaths and injuries and restrictions on civilian movement as a result of ongoing military operations.

Moumtzis has released a statement on implementation of UN Resolution 2401 and said he remains deeply concerned for the safety and protection of millions of civilians across Syria, one week after the UN Security Council voted in favour of the resolution calling for a one-month cessation of hostilities across the war-ravaged country.

“Not only has this not happened, in some cases the violence has escalated, particularly for the close to 400,000 men, women and children of East Ghouta. Instead of a much needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed. This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable.”

Moumtzis stated that since February 18, close to 600 people have reportedly been killed in air and ground-based strikes on the besieged enclave, while over 2,000 people have been injured. At the same time, ground-based strikes and mortar shelling from eastern Ghouta have killed and injured scores of civilians in neighbouring Damascus.

“At the same time, we continue to receive disturbing reports out of Afrin of civilian deaths and injuries, and restrictions on civilian movement as a result of ongoing military operations. Those who risk moving continue to be stopped at exit points by local authorities in Afrin, preventing them from accessing safer areas. To date, an estimated 5,000 people have reached surrounding villages and Aleppo city, while tens of thousands more are now believed to be displaced within Afrin.”

Moumtzis called on all parties to the conflict to facilitate unconditional, unimpeded, and sustained access to all people in need throughout the country, particularly for the close to 3 million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, and to take all measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and medical facilities, as well as allow for the urgent medical evacuation of those in need, as required by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), a civilian woman, Zelux Mihemed Hesen Daxli (60), was killed by a Turkish military attack in Afrin’s Shiye district on Sunday. According to local sources, Daxli was killed in the district center and was directly targeted by Turkish soldiers. She was buried in the Shiye cemetery.

According to Kurdish sources more than 220 civilians have been killed since the start of a Turkish military operation in Afrin on January 20, 2018.

Also on Sunday, the Turkish General Staff said that at least 2,612 Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdistan Communities Union/Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party/People’s Protection Units (PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG) and allegedly Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured. The military also claimed only terror targets are being destroyed and that “utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming civilians.

Moreover, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Sunday that the fight against “terrorism” is Turkey’s “most legitimate right.” “Wherever the threat directed to our country comes from, that place is a target for us. The fight against terrorism is our most legitimate right,” Yıldırım said during a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial women’s congress in western Muğla province.

Yıldırım said Turkey is “resolutely” continuing its fight against terrorism and added that Syria’s strategic Rajo town was cleared of terrorists during Turkey’s ongoing operation in the war-torn country.

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