Amnesty condemns ‘shameful disregard for civilian life’ in northeast Syria

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region⁠— Amnesty International detailed evidence of war crimes and a “shameful disregard for civilian life” by Turkey and Turkish-backed forces in a report published Friday, while medical convoys remain under attack.

Compiled from witness accounts taken from October 12 to 16, the statement denounced a vast array of war crimes and human rights abuses committed against civilians in the Kurdish enclave of Rojava in northern Syria, which have “wreaked havoc on the lives of Syrian civilians,” according to Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo.

“Turkish military forces and their allies have displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives” he said, adding that civilians live in “constant fear of indiscriminate bombardment, abductions and summary killings.”

The summary provided detail into the killing of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, which was blasted as a “blatant war crime” to be independently investigated, according to Naidoo. Various eyewitness accounts of children injured by Turkish shelling were also included, with medical teams forced to amputate the leg of an 8-year old girl in Qamishli.

Kurdish authorities estimate that more than 300,000 civilians have been displaced and more than 200 killed since Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring, intended to create a 30km ‘safe zone’ in northeastern Syria. The once-dominant military force in the area, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is seen by Turkey as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), branded as a terrorist group by Ankara.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Friday that the medical convoy of the Kurdish Red Crescent, accompanied by the US-based Free Burma Rangers, was targeted by Turkish-backed Syrian forces.

“Factions loyal to Turkey are preventing a Kurdish Red Crescent and an American humanitarian organization from going into the city of Ras al-Ain (Sari Kani) to evacuate the injured there as the factions deliberately targeted the convoy parked near one of the entrances of Ras al-Ain city,” the monitor said.

The targeting of humanitarian convoys follows an urgent appeal from Kurdish authorities on Thursday evening to create a humanitarian corridor for those trapped in the city, which has seen heavy fighting in recent days.

Amnesty International additionally expressed concern over the “deteriorating humanitarian situation” following the withdrawal of international NGOs, adding that there are “real fears” over access to basic supplies for the displaced, which is over 90% of the population in some areas.

Naidoo called for collective efforts to open the area to humanitarian groups, adding that “all parties must provide unfettered access to local and international humanitarian organizations.”
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