The Washington Kurdish Institute’s latest findings reveal a dire situation unfolding in North and East Syria after Turkey’s military campaign in October which targeted civilian infrastructure, with researcher Kevin T. Mason highlighting the grave humanitarian implications as winter approaches.
According to Mason’s report, the Turkish offensive has disrupted critical infrastructure, leading to civilian deaths and exacerbating the region’s existing water and fuel shortages. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan declared civilian infrastructure in North and East Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan to be legitimate targets following a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attack on the main police HQ in Ankara, part of the country’s Interior Ministry on 1 October, and Turkish offensives commenced on 5 October. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who have been instrumental in the fight against ISIS, denied any involvement in the incident in Ankara and denounced Turkey’s military actions. The SDF’s calls for peace are being echoed by international appeals for intervention to prevent further civilian harm.
Mason draws attention to Turkey’s strategic targeting of water resources, a tactic that has placed immense strain on healthcare facilities in Qamushli (Qamişlo) and threatens to force hospital closures. The assault on the flow of the Euphrates River and the Alouk Water Station has brought the water supply for over a million people to a critical juncture, a clear breach of international law and the 1987 water-sharing treaty.
The report also sheds light on the plight of the Christian Syriac-Assyrian community along the Khabur River, now at risk due to dam constructions by Turkish proxy forces. Mason notes the severe economic repercussions of over 200 targeted strikes on the region’s infrastructure, which have undone efforts to modernise the electricity network and destabilised the local economy.
Despite the severity of the situation, as Mason points out, the international response has been muted. Human Rights Watch and figures like Nadine Maenza have condemned Turkey’s actions, but broader global attention has been distracted by other conflicts, with Turkey’s president facing criticism for his stance on similar issues in Gaza.
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has detailed the devastating impact of Turkey’s military assault of 5-9 October, which targeted critical infrastructure in North and East Syria, affecting over 5 million people. Seventeen oil sites, the key Sweidiyah power station which supplies gas and electricity, as well as 11 electricity-generating power stations were hit, disrupting services for millions and halting operations at two major water facilities. The offensive also disrupted healthcare, with two hospitals ceasing operations, and education, with child casualties as 48 schools were targeted. The AANES condemned these actions as war crimes and called for international intervention to restore stability and counter terrorism.