Reports of civilian casualties from Afrin “deeply alarming” – UN

The United Nations has been receiving “deeply alarming” reports from Afrin, the Kurdish town in northwest Syria that is currently under siege by Turkish forces, UN spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said during a press conference on Friday.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch against Kurdish fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin, an area that had come under the autonomous control of Kurdish groups since the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces in 2012. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Mar. 9 that the assault on Afrin town centre, which contains the largest civilian population was “imminent.”

Reports have reached the UN of civilian casualties due to airstrikes and fighting on the ground, said Shamdasani.

 Hundreds of thousands in the area are at risk, said Shamdasani, adding that these include civilians displaced from nearby areas captured by Turkish forces in Olive Branch.

The UN spokesperson said that Kurdish fighters had prevented many of these civilians from leaving the town centre, further increasing the danger of casualties. The area’s hospital is under “extreme pressure,” she said.

Shamdasani concluded her statement by calling on all sides to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and take precautions to prevent civilian casualties.
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