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Turkish bombardment of northeast Syria continues for third day

Turkish airstrikes and shelling continued on Friday, the third day since Turkey launched their campaign in northeast Syria. Kurdish authorities reported that as many as 11 civilians had been killed by Turkish forces by Thursday night, while shelling from Syria into Turkey had killed at least six.

Turkish forces have also reported killing more than 277 “terrorists,” referring to Kurdish fighters, since the operation began. Though these figures were not possible to confirm.

In northeast Syria, 64,000 are said to have fled since the campaign began. Some of those now fleeing had only returned to the area recently and are now displaced again.

Since 2011, AOAV has recorded 747 civilian casualties from Turkish explosive violence in Iraq and Syria. (640 occurred in Syria and 107 in Iraq.) 48 of these casualties occurred this year. Though 33 of these occurred in Kurdish areas of Iraq, rather than Syria.

The majority of the casualties recorded from Turkish explosive weapons occurred in Aleppo in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The 259 civilian casualties recorded from Turkish explosive violence in 2018 are mostly those from the Turkish bombardment of Afrin and surrounding areas in their offensive to take the city from Kurdish forces.

The current Turkish offensive in the region not only puts civilians at further risk from explosive weapons and their reverberating impacts but also risks destabilising the region further.

SDF forces announced a halt to their anti-ISIS campaign when the offensive began to defend the region from Turkey. However, attacks from ISIS sleeper cells continue and there is a risk that ISIS will be able to take advantage of the security vacuum.

Yesterday, ISIS fighters launched an attack on SDF forces in Raqqa, where at least two suicide bombers engaged in an exchange of fire before detonating their explosives. While casualties have not yet been reported, the attack raises concern about the SDFs ability to counter ISIS attacks as Turkey launches an offensive against Kurdish fighters.

The SDF also control prisons holding ISIS fighters and camps for ISIS members and relatives. One such prison is already reported to have been bombed. Kurdish officials at al-Hawl camp, which holds more than 60,000 female ISIS members and their children, reported violent demonstrations, characterised as a failed escape attempt. The ability of the SDF to guard such facilities is expected to weaken as the Turkish offensive continues.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. AOAV encourages all armed actors to stop using explosive weapons with wide-area affects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.