UN rights chief urges international action for Syria’s Afrin and Idlib

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Saturday called for urgent international action against Turkish and Syrian government airstrikes.

In the northwestern Afrin district controlled by Kurdish forces, a Turkish-led offensive launched on 20 January is placing large numbers of civilians at risk, Zeid said in a statement published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

There have been reports of civilians including children being killed and injured as a result of airstrikes and ground-based strikes, the statement said.

Some inhabitants wishing to flee are apparently being prevented from doing so by Kurdish forces, statement added.

The UN human rights office also said it has received reports indicating that at least 277 civilians have been killed between 4 and 9 February by airstrikes by the Syrian Government and its allies.

“The past week has been one of the bloodiest periods of the entire conflict, with wave after wave of deadly airstrikes leading to civilian casualties in areas of Eastern Ghouta and Idlib,” Zeid said.

The no-holds-barred nature of this assault is evidenced by reports that at least nine medical facilities, six of them in Idlib and three in Eastern Ghouta, were hit by airstrikes. Even by Syria’s atrocious standards, these are exceptionally deplorable developments -- and a cruel irony given that both have been declared 'de-escalation areas'.

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