The United Nations has announced that more than 130,000 people in northeastern Syria were displaced due to the fighting between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish militia, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Turkey’s armed forces last week launched a military operation in northeastern Syria, targeting Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia with a stated objective to create a “safe zone” for the resettlement of 3.6 million refugees it has been hosting.
A crucial ally to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region, the YPG is viewed by Ankara as a terrorist organization because of its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency in Turkey since the 1980s.
According to a statement by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Sunday, over 130,000 people have been uprooted from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain due to the conflict.
The statement came after Turkish forces on Sunday targeted areas around the two Syrian border towns with fresh shelling for a fifth day despite strong international criticism of the offensive.
OCHA and several other relief agencies reportedly estimated that some 400,000 civilians in the Syrian conflict zone may require aid and protection as the fighting escalates.
VOA news quoted Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman, as stating on Sunday that most of the displaced people are staying with relatives and host communities, but that a growing number are living in collective shelters.
Laerke noted that it would be hard to provide the necessary assistance due to insecurity and limited access to people in need. Many NGOs have scaled down their operations and relocated their staff, the spokesman elaborated.
“We do have staff that remain there. Of course, their ability to operate there and provide relief is severely restricted and hindered by the ongoing hostilities. And, as I mentioned also, local authorities are reportedly imposing some quite strict security measures at checkpoints,” he explained.
Reuters said that the public and private hospitals in Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad have been closed since Friday.