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HRW: Turkey’s deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure in northeast Syria constitutes war crime

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Turkish airstrikes targeting critical infrastructure in northeast Syria deliberately harms civilians and constitutes war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Friday.

The HRW detailed how Turkish forces have systematically attacked power stations, water facilities, medical centres and vital access roads in recent months. These actions constitute war crimes under international law, as they deliberately inflict harm on civilians and civilian objects, the HRW emphasised.

Over one million people lack electricity and more than two million struggle with limited access to safe water due to the strikes in northeast Syria, according to the HRW. Damaged hospitals face oxygen shortages, jeopardising healthcare for countless individuals. The attacks have also disrupted essential services like bakeries and water purification plants, raising concerns about waterborne diseases.

HRW noted the warnings of humanitarian organisations that the scale of the damage surpasses their capacity to respond effectively. HRW also noted that this crisis is unfolding amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, urging the international community to address the dire situation in northeast Syria despite competing headlines.

Turkey has justified its actions by targeting the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, the HRW report emphasised the indiscriminate nature of the strikes and their devastating impact on civilians, raising serious concerns about Turkey’s adherence to international law and its stated objectives.

The report called for immediate action to avert further catastrophe, saying:

– Turkey must cease targeting civilian infrastructure and uphold international humanitarian law.
– Those responsible for violations must be held accountable.
– The international community must step up its efforts to alleviate the suffering of millions of civilians caught in the crossfire.

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