A Turkish-led offensive to capture the Kurdish-majority enclave of Afrin in northern Syria has forced 30,000 civilians from its main city in 24 hours, a monitor said Thursday.
“More than 30,000 people were displaced since yesterday (Wednesday) as a result of Turkish bombardment against the city,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“They went to areas controlled by the Syrian regime and to the outskirts of the city” under the control of Kurdish militia, the monitoring group said.
On January 20, Turkey launched a major ground and air offensive on the Afrin enclave, with the support of Syrian Arab rebel proxies. It claims to have now almost completely encircled the region’s main city of Afrin.
Effects of Turkish bombardment, as reported by #Afrin Media Center. "The number of victims increased to 7… after the martyrdom of two children, Kajin Ali (4 years) and Mohammad Kashla (6 years)."#TwitterKurds #Turkey pic.twitter.com/mIVEhs2LWB
— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) March 15, 2018
An AFP correspondent inside the city saw hundreds of families cramming into the back of pick-up trucks and onto tractor-drawn carts as they prepared to leave the city via the only remaining exit.
Those who stayed behind formed long queues outside shops to buy bread and various food goods in preparation for a fully fledged siege by Turkish and allied forces.
Afrin is one of the cantons in the self-proclaimed Kurdish autonomous administration in northern Syria and Ankara is worried by the consolidation along its border of a de facto statelet ruled by a group it considers a terrorist organisation.