UN says 160,000 refugees flee Turkish advance
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey — The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator says at least 160,000 civilians in northeastern Syria have been displaced amid Turkish-led military operations against Kurdish fighters.
Spokesman Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says most of the displacement has taken place from the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad, where people are fleeing south.
He said OCHA was especially concerned about some 13,000 people at the Ein Issa displacement camp, near where “hostilities and shelling” took place Monday.
Separately, spokesman Rupert Colville of the U.N. human rights office said it was “not seeing large numbers of civilian casualties” so far — “a few each day” — but people were being killed on both sides of the Syria-Turkey border.
He cautioned: “Obviously, we’re not necessarily hearing all cases, either.”
Turkey’s leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says its troops and allied Syrian opposition forces now hold some 386 square miles of territory in northeast Syria.
Erdogan made the comments Tuesday, during a Turkic-speaking nations’ meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he also called for “strong solidarity” from those nations to Turkey’s incursion into Syria, which is now in its seventh day.
The Turkish push has triggered widespread condemnation. The United States called on Turkey to stop the offensive and declare a cease-fire, while European Union countries moved to broaden an arms sale embargo.
Erdogan said that as of Tuesday morning, Turkey had “liberated approximately a 1,000 sq. kilometer area” from Kurdish groups it considers “terrorists” for links to an insurgency within its own borders.
He said the Turkish-led forces aimed to capture a border area in Syria spanning from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border.