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Syria: Civilians at risk as Turkish military offensive begins

Responding to Turkish government statements that its forces are set to cross into northeast Syria “shortly” as part of a military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

“As the Turkish military gears up to attack Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, 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.

“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.

“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.

“Both Turkish and Kurdish forces have a track record of carrying out indiscriminate attacks in Syria that have killed scores of civilians. This must not be allowed to happen again.

“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.”

700,000 people in receipt of aid

A Turkish government spokesman said earlier today that the USA had given them the green light to carry out a military offensive against Kurdish forces to establish a 20 mile-deep border ‘safe zone’ in which it intends to transfer millions of Syrian refugees from Turkey. According to the United Nations, aid is currently being delivered to 700,000 people in northeast Syria, where an estimated 1.7 million people live.

Last year, Amnesty documented indiscriminate attacks committed by the Turkish military and allied armed groups, and to a lesser extent Kurdish forces, in the towns of Afrin and Azaz in northern Aleppo, killing scores of civilians.

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