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Kurdish officials report ‘fiercest attacks’ on Afrin

By Rudaw 9/2/2018
Kurdish officials report ‘fiercest attacks’ on Afrin
A Turkish tank fires at Kurdish positions in southern Afrin on Friday, as seen from Atmah, Idlib. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As Turkey resumes airstrikes on Afrin after a few days’ pause, officials in the Kurdish enclave reported the “fiercest attacks” in the three weeks of Turkey’s offensive. 

Afrin officials reported 160 civilian deaths, including 26 children and 17 women, and another 395 injured in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch that was launched on January 20.

Turkey resumed airstrikes after a hiatus following the shooting down of a Russian jet over Idlib last Saturday. The aerial bombardment resumed Thursday night at 10 pm and continued through Friday evening, the Kurdish YPG in Afrin reported. 

Turkish jets hit villages in the eastern and western border areas as well as Afrin city in the centre of the canton, the YPG stated. 

Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies took control of five villages in the Jandaris area of southwest Afrin, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

The Kurdish force reported killing 25 among the Olive Branch forces in ongoing clashes in western Afrin. 

“The infrastructure is also systematically targeted, such as drinking water pumping stations, schools, mosques, dams, roads, food depots and health centers,” Hevi Mustafa, co-chair of the executive council of the Afrin administration, stated in a press conference on Friday also attended by local health officials.

Border villages have been destroyed and more than 60,000 civilians have been displaced due to “continuous shelling,” Mustafa stated. 

She warned of the potential for a humanitarian crisis because they do not have the resources to provide for such large numbers of people in need. 

Turkey has denied targeting civilian populations. 

“Necessary measures are being taken with utmost care and sensitivity in order not to harm civilian/innocent people and the environment,” Turkish Armed Forces stated this week. “Civilian and innocent people are definitely not being targeted.”

According to UN figures, Afrin is currently home to 323,000 people. Of them, 192,000 are in need of humanitarian aid and 125,000 are internally displaced from other areas in Syria. 

A political delegation from the Kurdistan Region is expected to depart for Afrin on Saturday, bringing medical supplies with them. 

Afrin is nearly fully encircled by Turkey or territory under control of Turkey’s Syrian allies. 

Mustafa appealed to humanitarian organizations to “break the siege” on Afrin and deliver medical, food, and relief supplies. 

Turkey had announced it was making preparations to receive persons displaced by their operation, but most reports indicate civilians who are fleeing border areas under bombardment are moving into the centre of the canton. 

Oxfam in Syria reported this week that routes out of Afrin have been “blocked off” and people trying to escape are being charged $100 per vehicle by local fighters. 

The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria and a UN demand for a one-month ceasefire to allow delivery of humanitarian aid. The body failed to reach a resolution. 

French Ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, told Rudaw’s Majeed Gly in New York that France backed a ceasefire that would include Turkey’s operation in Afrin. 

When calling for a ceasefire in Syria, Afrin “is definitively part of the equation,” Delattre said. 

Vassily Nebenzia, ambassador to the UN for Russia, which holds a veto on the council, had described a ceasefire at this time as "not realistic.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said they are also concerned about the humanitarian situation in a number of areas, including Afrin, but advocated reaching a cessation of hostilities through the Astana process, being led by Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara. 

Afrin administration co-chair Mustafa took the opportunity on Friday to condemn “international silence” and appealed to the UN Security Council to stop Turkey’s operation. 

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