Turkish airstrikes have caused damage in densely populated areas and to critical infrastructure across north and east Syria, exacerbating an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis, reported Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW interviewed residents of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), Qamishli, Derik, and the town of Cil Axa (Al-Jawadiyah) in al-Hasakeh governorate, all of which suffered damages, as well as international humanitarian workers including two on the ground in northeast Syria.
Residents told HRW that their lives had been drastically disrupted since Turkey began Operation Claw Sword. “We don’t dare go out anymore, not even to our jobs. We don’t know when or how a strike is going to happen,” HRW cited one of the residents as saying.
According to the report, the air strikes have displaced families, caused significant power cuts and fuel shortages, and forced out aid organisations, international humanitarian workers and local residents since 19 November.
“Turkey’s attacks on populated areas and critical infrastructure across north and northeast Syria is putting civilians’ basic rights further at risk,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “Turkey’s military strikes risk making an already unbearable situation much worse for Kurds, Arabs, and other communities.”
HRW said that Turkey should open its borders to those in need and allow in those fleeing the conflict to seek protection, in case of an invasion.
The report also pointed to Turkey targeting al Hol camp, where more than 50,000 Islamic State (ISIS) suspects and their family members are held. Turkish strikes “caused panic among detainees and aid groups”, HRW cited Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as saying.
The Turkish military has been conducting military operations in Syria since 2016. It also launched a series of operations -Claw-Sword, Claw-Lock, Claw-Tiger among others- in 2019 against Kurdish forces.
The current airstrikes started in the aftermath of the 13 November explosion in Istanbul. While Turkish authorities pinned the responsibility on Syrian Kurdish groups, Kurds’ own investigations revealed that the woman who planted the bomb had ties to the Islamist groups Turkey supports in the occupied Syrian territories.
“The fatal blast was orchestrated by the Turkish state itself to cultivate nationalist feelings in the Turkish population and to strengthen itself ahead of the 2023 elections,” Kurdistan Communities Union’s (KCK) spokesman Zagros Hiwa said.