Tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing combat zones in Syria following an escalation of conflict in the country’s northeast, according to a statement by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR on Thursday, which calls on parties in the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law.
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said about 60,000 Syrians have fled in the past 36 hours from areas targeted by the Turkish offensive in the country’s northeast.
According to sources cited by SOHR, civilians are fleeing in particular from the areas of Darbasiye and Ras al Ayn.
The direction of the displacement is towards south and southeast, towards the city of Hasake.
Erdogan vows to send refugees if EU hinders military op
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that if the European Union accuses Turkey of a Syrian “occupation” and hinders its military operation there, “we will open the doors to 3.6 million refugees and send them to you all”. Erdogan’s comments came in a speech to provincial leaders of his AKP party. Less than 24 hours since the start of the Turkish military operation Peace Spring in northeast Syria, Erdogan said “109 militants have been killed” by Turkish airstrikes. Erdogan also spoke of wounded Kurdish militants and others who had been handed over to the Turkish army and its allies.
“Two villages have been freed from the terrorists west of Tal Abyad,” Erdogan said, referring to one of the main access points for the Turkish incursion. Ankara military sources said these are the first Kurdish areas to pass into Turkish control since the operation began. The villages, occupied by local militants coopted by Ankara from the Free Syrian Army, are Yabse and Tal Fander, which were bombed by Turkey in recent hours.
Kurdish commander says Turkey attacks Rojava with jihadists
Dalbr Jomma Issa, a commander with the Kurdish YPJ Women’s Protection Units in Rojava in northeast Syria, spoke at a press conference in the Italian Lower House and said Turkey is attacking Rojava “not alone at the border but with the jihadists, with these militants”. “We are asking how a NATO country can attack, with jihadists, the coalition that fought ISIS. Turkey could easily commit genocide, kill everyone, bomb everyone. We are calling on the international community to stop the attacks and create a buffer zone in Syria,” Issa said.
“Unfortunately these attacks began yesterday, and we have the photos. Turkey says it attacks military zones, but here are photos that show they don’t care about civilians or soldiers, they kill everyone,” Issa said, showing some images printed on a sheet of paper. On the sidelines of the press conference, Issa said Kurdish forces had news on Thursday morning of “a village bombed by the Turkish in which many, many families were killed”.