Afrin hospital fears Turkey offensive will lead to ‘tragedy’

A Syrian woman mourns during the funeral of civilians and military personnel killed during the Turkish offensive against Afrin, an enclave in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish militia, in the city of Afrin on Jan. 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 January 2018

Afrin hospital fears Turkey offensive will lead to ‘tragedy’

AFRIN: Health workers in the northern Syrian town of Afrin fear that a Turkish offensive on the Kurdish-held enclave will lead to a humanitarian “tragedy” as medicines run short and the number of civilian casualties keeps rising.
“Medication and humanitarian aid necessary to help civilians will soon run out,” said Khalil Sabri Ahmed, head of the main hospital in Afrin which has received dozens of civilian casualties in the past week.
Turkey launched a major air and ground operation in northern Syria on January 20 in a bid to oust a US-allied militia, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which it considers a terror group.
At Afrin’s main hospital, the mood is somber, even if Christmas decorations still adorn some walls, said a reporter who works with AFP and toured the facility.
A man, his head covered in bandages and with a black eye, flashed a V for victory sign, in an effort to put a brave face to his condition after sustaining injuries in a Turkish bombardment.
Nearby a small girl lay on a metal cot, with a cast on one foot and her arm hooked up to an intravenous drip.
Journalists tried to get her to tell her story on camera but she retreated into silence, her eyes filled with sadness and staring into empty space.
A patient wearing a thick sweater had dozed off and a nurse was taking the blood pressure of a white-haired, dour-looking elderly man.
The corridors were silent and everyone looked gloomy.
For the past week, villages and towns around Afrin on the Syrian-Turkish border have come under intense Turkish bombardment from the air and ground.
Dozens of civilians have been wounded and serious cases have been taken to Afrin’s main hospital.
“Civilians are those bearing the brunt,” said hospital manager Ahmed.
According to Britain-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 36 civilians have been killed since Turkey launched operation “Olive Branch.”
Health workers have set up “medical shelters” close to the border to provide first-aid to the wounded because hospitals and clinics in the area have also been hit, said Ahmed.
But there is growing fear among health officials that a sustained military campaign will spark a “humanitarian tragedy” for civilians in the Afrin region, as medication and supplies dwindle.
Afrin’s geographical location does not help.
Turkey holds the borders to the north and west of Afrin while Syrian pro-Ankara rebels control areas to the south and east.
There is only one road in and out of the hilly enclave, leading to Syrian second city Aleppo, and that is controlled by anti-government rebels.
“Our capacities are weak because of this siege and if the pressure increases it will be very difficult to hold out,” said Ahmed.
He urged international organizations to dispatch aid to Afrin and press for an end to Turkey’s “aggression.”
The head of the Kurdish Red Crescent, Nouri Sheikh Qanbar, echoed his plea saying: “We hope that international organizations will launch humanitarian initiatives to send us aid.”
And children are already paying a heavy price in Afrin, with at least 11 killed since the Turkish offensive began, said the UN children’s agency UNICEF in a statement.
“Violence is reported to be so intense that families are confined to the basements of their buildings. The majority of shops are closed and UNICEF-supported child protection services, including a child-friendly space and psychosocial support activities, had to be suspended,” it said.
“Wars have laws and these laws are being broken every single day in Syria,” said UNICEF.
The United Nations has said around 5,000 people have been displaced by the offensive.
Outside morgues in Afrin, relatives of civilians killed in the violence gather to mourn as bodies are laid out.
A man whose son was killed looked on with teary eyes, as a group of tearful women grieved for the loss of a relative. “Don’t cry, they are martyrs who have preceded us to heaven,” he said.

Internet restricted in protest-hit Iran: report

Updated 17 November 2019

Internet restricted in protest-hit Iran: report

TEHRAN: Authorities have restricted Internet access in Iran, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Sunday, after nearly two days of nationwide protests triggered by a petrol price hike.

“Access to the Internet has been limited as of last night and for the next 24 hours,” an informed source at the information and telecommunications ministry said, quoted by ISNA.

The decision was made by the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and communicated to Internet service providors overnight, the source added.

It came after state television accused “hostile media” of trying to use fake news and videos on social media to exaggerate the protests as “large and extensive.”

Netblocks, a website that monitors online services, said late Saturday the country was in the grip of an Internet shutdown.

“Confirmed: Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national Internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7 percent of ordinary levels after twelve hours of progressive network disconnections,” it said on Twitter.

At least one person was killed and others injured during the demonstrations that started across the country on Friday night, Iranian media said.

The protests erupted hours after it was announced the price of petrol would be increased by 50 percent for the first 60 liters and 300 percent for anything above that each month.