Responding to the Turkish government’s statements that its forces are set to cross into northeast Syria “shortly” as part of an offensive to move US-backed Kurdish forces away from its border, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf 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.”
A Turkish government spokesman said on Wednesday that the USA had given them the green light to carry out a military offensive against Kurdish forces to establish a 32km-deep border “safe zone” to transfer millions of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
According to the UN, the organization currently delivers aid to 700,000 people in northeast Syria, where 1.7 million people live.
Last year, Amnesty International 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.