"They destroyed my family… I am finished… Kill me please… One's child is precious… I have lost my three children." These are the lamenting words of a father from Serê Kanîyê, Ras Al-Ain soon after he lost three of his children in the attacks launched by Turkish forces in northeast Syria.
On October 9th, Turkey launched a ground offensive in northern Syria, hours after its warplanes and artillery began bombarding the territory. The attack took place just days after US President Donald Trump withdrew his troops from the border area. Turkey claims the offensive is part of its efforts to combat terrorism.
Last Thursday, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) reported that during "counter-attacks and ground strikes", seven civilians were killed, including two women and a child. Prior to this, a man was killed on Wednesday. According to Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC) the total number of victims since the beginning of the Turkish offensive reached 35 deaths and 65 injured by October 12th.
Officials of northeastern Syria's autonomous administration revealed that Turkish forces, along with Syrian opposition allies, have approached a Syrian internally-displaced person (IDP) camp. The camp is home for thousands of family members of Isis militants, some of whom managed to flee after the bombing.
The UN's emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock said the Turkish government promised that they would take care not to target civilians.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), protection of civilians during armed conflict is a cornerstone of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). This protection extends to their public and private property. IHL protects vulnerable civilians such as women, children, and the displaced.
The United Nations (UN) has been warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe since the beginning of Turkish incursion, which could result in further deaths of civilians and the displacement of tens of thousands.
Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria Najat Rochdi noted that more than 11 million people in Syria require some form of humanitarian assistance. Among them, 4.7 million are living in areas severely in need. She highlighted the vulnerability of those displaced by the conflict and the uncertainty surrounding a so-called buffer zone on the border.
The UN stated on October 13th that more than 130,000 people had been displaced from rural towns of Tel Abyad and Ras Al-Ain at the northeast Syrian borders due to the ongoing conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish militias.
"Syria has all the components that would lead to the eruption of another humanitarian crisis", said ICRC's Christian Cardon de Lichtbuer.
The World Food Programme (WFP), with the help of Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), has delivered ready-made meals for at least 11,000 civilians of the Syrian Al-Hassakeh. WFP said it provides support to at least 650,000 people in northeastern Syria, among them 580,000 under Kurdish control, via a field hub in Qamishli.
Despite the presence of UN humanitarian staff in Qamishli, due to the severe hostilities taking place, it is very difficult to provide aid.
Marixie Mercado from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that last Thursday, the Alouk water pumping station, which is used to provide potable water to at least 400,000 people in Al-Hassakeh, as well as displacement camps, was attacked.
"Child protection programmes have been suspended in Ras Al-Ain, Mabrouka camp, Tal Halaf, Sulok and Tal Abyad," said Mercado.
Health and nutrition programs in Ras Al-Ain and Mabourka camp had also been adjourned, while schools in these areas closed down. Hospitals in Ras Al-Ain and Tel Abyad have been closed since Turkish forces started the offensive.
ICRC said its concerns about the lack of basic humanitarian services in the coming weeks for displaced people are due to the uncertainty over how the military attacks will develop.