Turkish-backed militias shell north Syria, yet again cutting off water supply to nearly a half million civilians
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Shelling by Turkish-backed armed groups on Thursday caused severe damage to a water pipeline, one of their many recent intentional actions to block the crucial resource for some 460,000 civilians in Syria’s northern Hasakah province, controlled by a local Kurdish-led self-administration.
“It’s true. Today at 3 pm afternoon, mercenaries targeted Allouk pipeline, which supplies Hasakah with water, with mortar shelling,” local official Suzdar Ahmed told Kurdistan 24.
“Currently, there is no water in Hasaka and we don’t have information to what extent the pipeline is damaged. Tomorrow at 7 pm, our group will investigate the damage and estimate how many days they need to fix it.”
Ilham Ahmad, the president of the executive committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), accused the Turkish-backed groups of hampering the fight against the coronavirus on social media.
She said that, rather than preventing the spread of the highly-contagious disease in Syria and Turkey, “Turkish backed mercenaries shelled the main pipeline that provides water to 500,000 people.”
She added that four civilians were injured in the shelling. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that one civilian was “slightly” injured.
During the past week, Turkish-backed groups bombarded several areas in northern Syria amid a UN appeal for a ceasefire, supported by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Earlier on Thursday, two Syrian government soldiers and one civilian were killed when Turkish groups shelled positions of the Syrian government near the villages of Abosh and Qabr in the eastern countryside of Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye).
Under Russian mediation, though, northeastern Syria has been providing electricity to the Turkish-occupied areas in exchange for water flow, as agreed upon.
The militias have regularly cut off water to Hasakah province, demanding that Kurdish-led authorities in northeast Syria provide more electricity to areas under their control.
The last time the water was cut was between Saturday and Monday, according to the Rojava Information Centre (RIC).
UNICEF and human rights organizations have criticized the interruption of water to civilians in Hasakah, many of which are displaced and desperately need the resource.
On March 23, UNICEF Representative in Syria Fran Equiza said the interruption “during the current efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk.”
“Handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against COVID-19,” he stressed.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released on Tuesday said, “Turkish authorities’ failure to ensure adequate water supplies to Kurdish-held areas in Northeast Syria is compromising humanitarian agencies’ ability to prepare and protect vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Also on March 27, 49 Syrian civil society and human rights organizations condemned the water interruption in a jointly signed statement, calling it a war crime.
The action, they argued, inexcusably “denies the population of northeast Syria safe and potable water.”
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Hisham Arafat contributed to this report)