A Kurdish girl cries at Afrin Hospital where her wounded relatives are receiving treatment after reportedly being injured in a Turkish rocket attack on Wednesday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The number of civilians killed after 13 days of Turkey’s offensive in Afrin has passed 100, according to local health authorities.
Afrin Hospital stated that 104 civilians have been killed and 165 injured.
The casualties come from across the Kurdish canton in northwestern Syria. The Turkish army and its Syrian proxies have “targeted every village and district,” Jiwan Mohammed, head of Afrin Hospital, said in a press conference on Thursday.
He praised the “hard work” of the hospital employees.
Turkey has denied reports of civilian casualties. “No civilian has been harmed in Operation Olive Branch” by Turkish forces or their allied Syrian militias, Turkey’s National Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Tuesday.
A UK-based conflict monitor and Russia’s Foreign Ministry, however, have both confirmed civilian casualties.
The most recent figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the civilian death toll at 68, including 21 children and 12 women. Another at least 185 have been injured.
Most of the civilians killed are Syrians displaced by conflict in other areas of the country, according to the PYD, the ruling political party in Rojava, northern Syria.
According to UN figures, 323,000 people are living in Afrin and nearby areas under Kurdish control. Of them, 192,000 are in need of humanitarian aid and 125,000 are IDPs.
The Observatory also reported on Thursday that Turkish-backed Syrian militias had stripped and mutilated the body of a member of the all-female Kurdish YPJ, stating it has video footage of the incident.
Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a press conference on Wednesday that hundreds have been killed in Turkey’s military operation and civilians are among the dead.
Turkey claims major advance
Turkish forces and their allied Syrian militias took Bulbul town, 30km north of Afrin city close to the border with Turkey, on Thursday, Turkish media reported.
With these advances on Thursday, Turkish media reported that Turkish forces are now in control of a large area of northern Afrin.
The Kurdish-led SDF confirmed clashes have taken place in the Bulbul area and reported they have destroyed a Turkish APC armoured vehicle “and kill[ed] everybody inside in an ambush in Qarnah village in Bulbul town.”
They also clashed with Turkish forces in Sahra village on Thursday afternoon, 2km northwest of Bulbul, where “at least 20 soldiers were killed,” the SDF statement claimed.
Damascus appeals to UN
Syrian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that it sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council regarding Turkish “lies, which no longer convince anyone,” reported state-run SANA news agency.
The Ministry accused Turkey of trying to “justify its military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic based on the concept of self-defense,” read the letter.
Calling the Turkish offensive a “blatant aggression,” Syria called on the Security Council to not allow Turkey’s use of force contrary to international law.
Turkey launched its Operation Olive Branch on January 20 with the stated aim of clearing its borders of “terrorists,” referring to Kurdish groups Ankara alleges have ties to the PKK.
Updated at 11:00 pm