AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24) – At least 47 civilians were killed when Turkish airstrikes struck both a hospital and civilian convoys fleeing Syria’s northwest city of Afrin on Thursday, said Syrian Kurdish forces and human rights groups, who claimed that most of those killed were women and children.
“On 16 March 2018, the death toll of Turkish airstrikes and artillery shelling on Afrin killed 47 civilians, including 16 children and 14 women, two of which were pregnant, in addition to dozens of wounded civilians,” said Redur Xelil, head of foreign relations for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in an online statement.
Xelil added that the number of casualties is increasing because dozens are still trapped under rubble who rescue teams cannot access due to the ongoing heavy bombardment by Turkish forces.
On Friday night, at least 16 lost their lives in a Turkish airstrike targeting the hospital in Afrin city, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“There was an air strike on Afrin’s general hospital, it’s the only big hospital,” said Rojhat Roj, a People's Protection Unit (YPG) media official in Afrin. “The air and artillery strikes are ongoing in the town.”
Additionally, the bombardment caused the displacement of about 150,000 civilians from Afrin in the past three days, the Observatory claimed.
Thousands of residents continued to flee Afrin on Thursday to Nubul and Zhara in the northern countryside of Aleppo, which controlled by the Syrian government, amid air raids, artillery shelling, and the threat of an imminent ground invasion.
“Hundreds of Afrin residents fled on foot towards safe areas in #Shirawa, #Nubol and al-Zahraa' to escape from heavy Turkish shelling of Afrin city," read a post on twitter by the Afrin Media Center (AMC) which included several photos (see gallery below).
AMC is a Syria-based information office in Afrin city that has been documenting the Turkish assault on the region since its launch on January 20.
Turkey’s military and its militiamen allies began the offensive in the Afrin region nearly two months ago against the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara considers a “terrorist” organization and extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Editing by John J. Catherine