UN warns of ‘dire humanitarian consequences’ in Afrin under Turkish military attack

A Kurdish boy holds a photo during a protest in Thessaloniki, Greece on February 3, 2018 against Turkish military operations in the Kurdish-majority Afrin canton in northern Syria.

United Nations representatives in Syria on Tuesday called for a stop to all conflicts throughout the country, especially the recent Turkish military campaign in Syrian Afrin region. A joint statement from the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Representatives in Syria urged an end to violence in the country to ensure civilians caught in the cross-fire can receive proper aid.

The organization called on warring parties to end their conflict for at least one month “to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and services, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, and alleviation of people’s suffering.”

“The United Nations humanitarian team in Syria warns of the dire consequences of the compounded humanitarian crisis in several parts of the country,” the statement continued. The organization highlighted the ongoing military operations by Turkey against Syrian Kurds in Afrin, noting that “as the fighting escalates, the number of civilians affected by the violence is bound to increase.”

In a similar call for an end of violence in Afrin, and Syria in general, Oxfam stressed that thousands of refugees and residents in Afrin are in desperate need of proper medical and humanitarian services.

The agency, an international confederation of charitable organizations, called for “safe access for humanitarian relief” as recent fighting in the area has left at least 148 people dead and 365 more injured.

Afrin Canton’s Health Council Co-chair Ancela Reşo has stated on Tuesday that 148 civilians lost their life in the ongoing Turkish military operations together with Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants. She said 26 of these are children and 17 are women. Reşo has also stated that there are some people still trapped under debris and their aftermath is not known. Reşo has also reported that 365 civilians got wounded and 55 of these are women and 40 are children.

On Tuesday, shells hit a camp for internally displaced Syrians near the Syrian-Turkey border, killing at least one person, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The shells which hit the camp at Atmeh village, in rebel-held Idlib province, were fired from the Kurdish-held Afrin region just to its north, according to the Observatory and an Atmeh resident, who put the death toll at three. The YPG said in a statement posted on its social media networks that Turkish military was behind the attack and that accusations that the YPG had carried it out were lies.

A total of 970 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and allegedly ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the launch of Turkish military operation on January 20 in Syria’s Afrin region, the Turkish military said on Tuesday. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured. In a statement, the Turkish General Staff said 23 militants had been “neutralized” in the early hours of Tuesday.

A Turkish soldier was killed in a rocket and mortar attack in northwest Syria as Turkish forces were setting up a military post in the largest remaining stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s military has also said on Tuesday. Five soldiers were also wounded in Monday night’s attack. A civilian member of the Turkish contingent was also wounded, according to the military.

The army began setting up the outpost on Monday southwest of Aleppo city, the deepest position Turkey has established so far inside northwestern Syria under the agreement with Moscow and Tehran aimed at “de-escalating” the violence.

Turkish soldiers and FSA militants have also uncovered a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) long ditch used by PYD/PKK group in a  village during Turkey’s ongoing military operation in northwestern Syria. On the 18th day of the operation, the 3,5-meter deep and 3-meter wide ditch linking Dikmetaş, under control of the Kurdish group, and opposition-held Yazıbağ villages was discovered. Opposition forces, later, filled the ditch with soil and made it unusable.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey and Russia do not have any disagreements over Ankara’s incursion into northern Syria’s Afrin region, adding that the two countries were in close contact about the operation. Çavuşoglu made the comment in an interview with pro-government broadcaster TGRT Haber. He also said Turkish forces had finished building a sixth observation point in Syria’s Idlib region.

Turkish warplanes began striking Afrin on Jan. 20, as dozens of civilians, including children and women, were reported to have been killed by air raids and shelling.

The campaign dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is meant to clear Syria’s Kurdish-held northwest district of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who Turkey claims are an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara has labeled the US-backed Kurdish forces a “terrorist organization” and has been infuriated by Washington’s support for the YPG.

The US, which is backing the Kurds in the ongoing battle against ISIL in Syria, said it was concerned and has called on Turkey to limit its military offensive in the Kurdish region.

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