EXCLUSIVE: Number of civilian casualties increase in Afrin
AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24) – The number of civilian casualties continues to increase in the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) enclave of Afrin as Turkey’s military operation, supported by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), enters its second week.
Ekram Salih, a Kurdistan 24 Correspondent in Afrin, reported that civilians were the majority of victims in Turkish airstrikes carried out in the region, with dozens of them killed and injured since the air campaign began.
“So far, 37 civilians have been killed, 12 of whom were children. The rest were mostly women,” Salih reported, referring to date provided by Afrin’s main hospital.
Some of those injured shared their stories with Kurdistan 24 while in hospital after being struck by Turkish airstrikes near the city of Afrin.
“All I remember was the sound of a huge explosion. The rooftop of the house was destroyed. I tried to rescue my children. Some of them, I just saw parts of their body,” said an ethnically Arab man lying down in hospital.
“My grandchild died in my hands. We tried to transfer wounded family members to the hospital, but another strike hit us,” he continued. “The second strike killed all who were with me. Only I survived. I don't know how I survived.”
Outside of Afrin’s Hospital, many who were hit by airstrikes are also being treated by the Kurdish Red Crescent Hospital in the area.
“The death toll is likely to increase as a result of poor health conditions for many of the injured civilians,” one doctor in Afrin Hospital told Kurdistan 24.
Turkey launched a military operation on Afrin ten days ago against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who have been protecting Afrin since 2012 from the Islamic State (IS) after the Syrian government forces withdrew from the area.
The operation is ongoing, with multiple active frontlines and casualties reported on both sides.
Recently, UN agencies suspended their activities in the area and “strongly denounced the rising number of child casualties.”
Turkey has claimed it is only targeting YPG positions in Afrin in a bid to drive the Kurdish fighters, which Ankara views as terrorists, out of northwestern Syria.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Ekram Salih)