More than 60,000 displaced by Turkey assault on Syria

People run to take cover after shelling by Turkish forces in Ras al Ayn. (AP pic)

SYRIA: Turkey’s military offensive on northeastern Syria has displaced more than 60,000 people in less than a day, a war monitor said Thursday.

“Since Wednesday, more than 60,000 people fled border areas,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that most of the displaced travelled east towards the city of Hasakeh.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitor, said the biggest displacement was from the border areas of Ras al-Ain, Tal Abyad and Derbasiyeh.

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched an offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread international warnings.

After an initial phase of air strikes and artillery fire, troops moved across the border and attacked some of the key towns in the area.

Ankara aims to create a buffer about 30 km deep in Syria territory in which to send back some of the 3.6 million Syrians who found refuge on Turkish soil since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.

Humanitarian organisations warned that this latest episode in the deadly eight-year-old conflict could once again have disastrous consequences on civilian populations.

“An estimated 450,000 people live within five kilometres of the Syria-Turkey border and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritise the protection of civilians,” a joint statement said.

The text signed by 14 humanitarian organisations warned that large numbers of civilians could soon be cut off from the vital aid they had been receiving.

“The life-saving humanitarian response will be threatened if instability forces aid agencies to suspend or relocate their programming and staff, as is already happening,” said the statement.

Among the organisations that signed the appeal were several of the largest aid providers in the area, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Mercy Corps.