AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Kurdish authorities said on Friday that, as part of their attack on Syria’s Kurdish-run region of Afrin, Turkish troops used chemical weapons, injuring several civilians. Such use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international law.
The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main political party in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), said in an online statement that six civilians were injured in a chemical attack. The statement specified that chlorine gas was used on Arenda village, in the Shea district of Afrin.
Those wounded were transported to Afrin's city hospital. Hospital officials told Kurdistan 24 that their identities are as follows: Mahmoud Hsassoun, Waddah Khalil, Abdulrahman Shaleesh, Adnan Shaleesh, Ahmad Hamo, and Mohammad Haqqi.
A doctor working at the hospital who gave his name as Jiwan told the Belgium-based Kurdish TV of Ronahi that they received six patients suffering from skin and lung irritation, and who were having difficulty breathing.
The doctor said one of the patients could hardly speak, but was able to communicate that he witnessed rockets hitting the village, and then smoke coming from where the rockets hit made those injured begin to suffocate.
“So far, we don’t know whether chlorine gas was used in the attack, or other gases, but the symptoms show that a chemical weapon was used for sure,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the Turkish military, which has previously denied accusations of targetting civilians in its Afrin operation.
Additional sources claiming the attack occured include, Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG in Afrin, who told Reuters that a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border, was bombarded, and that it resulted in respiratory symptoms in civilians that are indicative of a gas attack.
Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a hospital in Afrin, also reported that Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.
On Wednesday, a top UN official had already expressed concerns that chemical gas attacks may have been employed in Afrin region, which has been under attack by Turkish forces for nearly a month.
“There have been several allegations of chlorine attacks in Ghouta, in Idlib, and also now recently in Afrin. While we cannot independently verify these allegations, but if confirmed, it is outrageous and should be having no impunity,” UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council.
Last month, Turkey launched a military incursion, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch,” into the Kurdish-held Afrin region of Syrian Kurdistan to sweep the YPG from its southern border.
Turkey has also threatened to push toward the Syrian town of Manbij, now under the control of a YPG-led force, and warned US troops stationed there not to get in the way.
So far, the number of civilians who have lost their lives has reached 180, and 413 have been reported wounded.
Editing by John J. Catherine