Aid reaches Syrians displaced by Turkey’s Afrin assault

Syrian women and children walk past government soldiers as they evacuate from the town of Jisreen in the southern Eastern Ghouta, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on March 17, 2018. (AFP)

Humanitarian aid on Tuesday reached desperate families displaced to the northern Syrian town of Tal Rifaat by a nearby Turkish offensive, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Ankara's two-month assault on Kurdish fighters in the region of Afrin, further west, has forced tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in Tal Rifaat.

The humanitarian situation in the town has been dire, and on Tuesday the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent began delivering much-needed aid.

"The 14-truck convoy includes 25 metric tonnes of humanitarian aid. Distribution of bread, blankets and bottles of water already started," said ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky.

Deliveries would also include diapers, kitchen sets, and water tanks.

Turkey and allied Syrian rebel groups launched an assault on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin region on January 20 and captured its urban centre on Sunday.

According to the United Nations, around 100,000 people have fled the fighting, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says the number could be as high as 250,000.

Some 75,000 people have fled into Tal Rifaat alone, according to the UN's humanitarian coordination office (OCHA).

"The massive influx of IDPs is putting a strain on host communities, which are already overwhelmed," OCHA said on Monday.

Classes in the town had been cancelled as all 16 of its schools were being used to host displaced shelters. A single health facility was serving all the displaced, OCHA said.

Tal Rifaat is held by the YPG, but there is also a presence for Syrian government troops.

Another 24,000 people fled Afrin into the government-controlled towns of Nubol and Zahraa, the UN has said.

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Last Update: 14:12 KSA 17:12 - GMT 14:12
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