Civilians at risk from Turkish military offensive in Syria: Amnesty International

Amnesty International has warned that civilians are at serious risk from a cross-border attack against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria that began on Wednesday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Amnesty International has warned that civilians are at serious risk from a cross-border attack against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria that began on Wednesday. 

“It is imperative that all parties to this conflict respect international humanitarian law, including by refraining from carrying out attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” read a statement by the international human rights watchdog.

“As in other parts of Syria, scores of civilians in northeast Syria have already suffered from the impact of successive military offensives, multiple displacements and dire living conditions,” it continued, referencing the 2018 takeover of the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin.   

A previous report by Amnesty about Turkish forces occupying Afrin presented evidence that Ankara had given allied Syrian armed groups free rein to commit serious human rights abuses against civilians.   

“Research released today reveals that residents in Afrin are enduring a wide range of violations, mostly at the hands of Syrian armed groups that have been equipped and armed by Turkey,” Amnesty said in August 2018.  

A UN report in September 2018 also concluded that the Turkish air force had failed to take necessary precautions prior to launching attacks in Afrin, leading to the death of civilians.  

Wednesday's Amnesty statement continued, “Turkey has an obligation under international humanitarian law to take all possible measures to protect civilians and to ensure they have access to humanitarian aid. Civilians wishing to flee the fighting must be given safe passage to do so.” 

“The international community must take measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the Turkish authorities and pro-Turkey armed groups and Kurdish forces if yet another humanitarian catastrophe in northern Syria is to be avoided.” 

A White House statement made late on Sunday explained that American forces would withdraw from areas in northern Syria where Turkey has said it would launch a long-threatened military operation targeting US-backed Kurdish forces. The move drew stern bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump.  

Read More: Trump waffles amid continued criticism, as Turkish attack looms 

On Wednesday afternoon, Turkish warplanes and artillery began shelling Syria's predominantly Kurdish northeastern town of Serekaniye.  

Read More: Turkish warplanes start shelling northeast Syria, SDF spokesperson says  

A source in Serekaniye told Kurdistan 24 that four warplanes were hovering over the town and that heavy artillery had been fired and Turkish warplanes had bombarded surrounding areas as well as Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, and the town of Tal Abyad. Local media said that Turkish artillery had struck silos in the eastern outskirts of Qamishli.  

Waves of people have started to leave their homes to flee the Turkish shelling, including some that have fled to the Kurdistan Region.  

Read More: More Iraqi refugees return from Turkey through Kurdistan border  

The United Nations Security Council is set to meet on Thursday in response to the attack, international diplomats announced later in the day. 

According to Amelie de Montchalin, the French Minister of European Affairs, Britain, France, and Germany called for the meeting shortly after the launch of the operation on Wednesday evening. 

Read More: UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting Thursday after Turkey’s military action: diplomats