Families flee Afrin, under heavy bombardment on Wednesday. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Afrin city centre is under heavy bombardment Wednesday evening, with reports of many civilian casualties.
Turkey “is bombing the centre of Afrin and there are dead and wounded among the civilians,” said Hediye Yusuf, an official within the Rojava administration.
Civilians injured in airstrikes and artillery shelling are being brought to Afrin hospital, the ruling political party PYD stated.
At least 32 civilians have been killed or wounded in the strikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The hospitals are already overwhelmed with civilian casualties after nearly two months of Turkey’s offensive on the region and are running short of medical supplies.
According to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkey has been carrying out “indiscriminate bombardment” and “continuous, non-stop shelling” on the city, forcing the population to flee.
In video of the strikes published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while filming from the rooftop of a building, a man says, “March 14, 2018, again the Turkish state is bombarding Afrin city centre. Targeting civilians.”
WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT
Video from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights of bombardment of Afrin city on Wednesday.
The largest urban centre in the Kurdish canton in Syria’s northwestern corner was sheltering thousands of civilians from the border areas of Afrin. There is a shortage of food in the city and many civilians have fled, going to regime-controlled towns north of Aleppo as Turkish forces and their allied Syrian militias advance around the city, seeking to encircle it.
Turkish jets targeted a checkpoint leading to the regime-controlled towns of Nubl and al-Zahra on Wednesday, killing at least 10 militiamen loyal to Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The checkpoint is located on the route civilians from Afrin are taking as they flee.
Turkey has denied targeting civilians in its campaign that it says is against “terror groups” that have ties to the PKK.
“All care is being taken. Right now the first civilians are being taken out of Afrin in vehicles through a special corridor,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The United Nations has estimated the population of Afrin to be 323,000. Local officials state that up to one million people are at risk from Turkey’s campaign.
Erdogan said he hoped that the city will be completely encircled by the end of the day.
“I hope that Afrin will fall totally this evening,” he said.
A Kurdish official dismissed Erdogan’s ambition.
"It sounds like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is daydreaming when he says Afrin will fall tonight," Redur Khalil told AFP.
Updated at 9:23 pm