UN Secretary-General says numerous casualties reported in Afrin, fighting continues in Afrin

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg    


UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday said during a UN Security Council meeting that numerous civilian casualties are reported in Afrin, while Turkey continues its attacks, despite a UN Security Council Resolution calling for a country-wide ceasefire in Syria for 30 days.

Contrary to the resolution’s demands, there had been no cessation of hostilities, with violence continuing in eastern Ghouta, Afrin, parts of Idlib and into Damascus and its suburbs, he said. 

“As the situation continues to unfold, the Turkish offensive in Afrin — pursued with armed opposition group allies — intensified with airstrikes and ground advances against PYD/YPG fighters — themselves reinforced by elements coming from eastern Syria where they were combating Da’esh,” Guterres said.

“Pro-Syrian Government forces have also deployed inside of Afrin city. The fighting resulted in significant civilian displacement with reports of numerous casualties and damage to infrastructure,” he said.

“With the cooperation of Syrian armed opposition groups — Turkish forces established a so-called buffer zone inside Syrian territory linking northern rural Aleppo and Idlib, and surrounding Afrin from three sides. The offensive is now pushing ever closer towards the city with its large civilian population,” he added.

“In Idlib and Afrin, violence continued to threaten civilian lives. The Council must do its utmost to advance implementation of resolution 2401,” Karel Jan Gustaaf van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations said.

Turkey has refused to stop its attacks on Afrin, the SDF said.

“Despite the UN Security Council Resolution 2401, which obligates all parties to stop hostilities, the Turkish state continues to violate the international resolution and targets our people in Afrin with different types of weapons and airstrikes, which expose our people to a systematic annihilation. Therefore, our forces are confined to self- defense in case of any attacks on Afrin,” the SDF said on Tuesday.

“The UN Security Council unanimously adopted its resolution 2401 at its meeting on Saturday, February 24th, 2018, on the basis of a draft submitted by the State of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Sweden, which explicitly provided for the cessation of all combat operations by all parties on all Syrian territory for at least one month,” SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel said. 

“The Turkish state and its allied extremist factions strike the international will and UN Security Council resolution, they are brutally continuing their aggression by directly bombing the civilian populated city of Afrin and its towns and villages, and bombarding vital facilities, including drinking water stations and pumps,” he added. 

Mohammed Kamal, 48, a civilian from Afrin, told the Region on Monday evening that the situation in Afrin is dire. “There is bombing in Afrin city, and armed groups and the Turkish army are getting close to the east side of the city, this is big danger on the city, and kids and women are fleeing towards the area of Sherawa, towards the mountain,” he said.

“They can’t go to Aleppo, because the regime will not allow them,” he said.

“Turkey is bombing it, and the goal of Turkey is to empty the area, as it did in Jindiris, Bilbil and Sharra,” he added.

“The attitude of YPG is resistance to the end and we do not know what will happen in the end, but hope that the attitudes of the countries in Europe and, countries like America will be changed to stop the Turkish attacks,” he concluded.

He said the People’s Protection Units (YPG) will continue the fight. “The YPG is everywhere, even in the area Turkey entered, the YPG is around it, therefore clashes continue in Jindiris, Bilbil and Shara,” he added.

YPG spokesperson in Afrin, on Monday said they will resist.

"We would never ever leave Afrin alone, we still have many surprises for the Turkish Army," he was quoted by local journalist Hosheng Hesen as saying.

On Monday, the situation in Afrin was discussed in the UK Parliament, with many UK MPs condemning the UK policy that doesn’t not condemn the Turkish campaign.

“Tonight, while many mislead over Corbyn's statement in House of Commons on Russia, I asked Alistair Burt whether he thought Turkey's bombing of 850k people in Afrin was unjust,” Chris Williamson MP said. “He refused to answer. He refused to condemn. This is a victory for ISIS, but where is the outrage?,” he concluded.

"The Afrin incursion is neither legitimate nor justified. It should never have been allowed in the first place, and has no basis in international law,” Kate Osamor‏, another MP said.