Turkish op in Afrin leaves ‘grim tally’ of children killed, ‘fleeing families’ in Syria – UNICEF

Turkish op in Afrin leaves ‘grim tally’ of children killed, ‘fleeing families’ in Syria – UNICEF
The number of children killed in Syria has risen dramatically over the past two weeks, according to UNICEF’s envoy in the country, who said youngsters have been hardest hit.

“The grim tally of children killed in Syria in the past two weeks has increased daily as violence escalates in several areas across the country,” Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in Syria, said in a statement titled “Is the world becoming numb to the killing of children?” on Friday.

According to Equiza, UNICEF received reports about at least 11 children killed in the Afrin area in northern Syria. The official didn’t specify when or how exactly the children were killed or who was behind the violence. However, Kurdish-dominated Afrin was the exact area where Turkey launched its operation ‘Olive Branch’ on January 20.

Since the launch of the operation in Afrin, the Kurds say the campaign had claimed innocent lives. Ankara, however, maintains there have been no civilian casualties. According to the latest numbers from Turkey, more than 340 members of “terrorist groups” have been neutralized as the operation marks one week.

“In Afrin, families are fleeing to other areas within the district, seeking protection in camps already crowded with over 125,000 previously displaced people, living in shockingly difficult conditions and exposed to harsh winter weather,” Equiza noted.

According to the UNICEF official, families are “confined to the basements of their buildings” due to intense violence outside. “Wars have laws and these laws are being broken every single day in Syria,” he wrote in an emotional appeal, adding that all conflicting parties should provide safe passage for civilians who want to leave the affected area.

Yet almost seven years into the conflict in Syria, children still continue to be the hardest hit by “unprecedented destruction, displacement and death,” according to Equiza. “They have lost lives, homes and childhoods. Enough is enough,” he added.

According to the UN, more than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than half the country’s basic infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.