Turkey's Military Action Interrupted Syria Humanitarian Effort, UN Says
By Lisa Schlein October 11, 2019
U.N. agencies say intense shelling and airstrikes by Turkish forces along the northeastern Syrian border with Turkey are having a devastating impact on the estimated 3 million people who live there.
Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says some 2.2 million people living in the Kurdish-controlled area could be affected. He says most are in need of humanitarian aid, as are hundreds of thousands of civilians in nearby government-controlled cities.
"United Nations and NGO staff remain on the ground and ready to respond, access and security permitting," Laerke said. "But active military operations have, of course, had an impact on our ability to provide relief, and local authorities have reportedly imposed strict security measures at checkpoints."
The U.N. human rights office says seven civilians – including women and children – have been killed or injured during the first two days of the Turkish operation.
The agency says it has received disturbing reports that key civilian infrastructure such as water pumping stations and dams have been knocked out by the Turkish army and affiliated armed groups.
Human rights spokesman Rupert Colville says areas in northern Syria, such as Afrin and al-Bab, which already were under the control of Turkish forces, are continuing to face lawlessness, rampant criminality and violence.
"We have had specific reports of intimidation, ill-treatment, killing, kidnapping, looting and seizure of civilians' houses by the Turkish-backed armed groups in these areas, with civilians reportedly seized by members of these groups from their homes or at checkpoints, accused of affiliation with specific Kurdish armed or political groups," Colville said. "And, the fate and whereabouts of many of those civilians remain unknown."
The U.N. children's fund says a pumping station that provides safe water to at least 400,000 people in Hassakeh governorate has been hit and is out of commission. It says technicians are unable to get to the station to repair it because of the fighting.
UNICEF says two schools reportedly have been taken over for military use and other schools in the area have been closed. It says child protection programs, as well as health and nutrition programs in camps for displaced people, have been suspended.
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