The Syrian Democratic Council on Thursday, October 17 called for a corridor to allow civilians in the northeast border town of Ras al-Ayn (Serekaniye) to flee as clashes with Turkey-backed rebels continued for an eighth day.
The civilian Council, the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, warned that children and the elderly had been unable to leave the border town due to airstrikes and shelling, and humanitarian organizations were being hindered by the fighting.
It called for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate injured civilians and the dead.
The number of people killed in wounded across northeast Syria since Turkey-backed rebel groups fighting under the banner of the Syrian National Army invaded on October 9 is unclear.
The health authority in the SDF-controlled areas of northeast Syria said Thursday that it had recorded 218 deaths, including 18 children, and another 653 injuries.
A letter released by the SDF and attributed to the health authority’s co-presidents said their medical teams were unable to evacuate civilians, and warned that Turkey was using internationally prohibited weapons. Reports of the use of unconventional weapons, including the misuse of white phosphorous, have not been verified. The Syria-based Rojava Information Center said in its daily report on Wednesday that the claims were likely false.
At least 160,000 people have been displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but the true number may be much higher. Humanitarian organizations pulled out of most areas days ago citing security concerns after U.S. troops withdrew from northeast Syria. Earlier Thursday, Reuters reported that the SDF is preventing some families from fleeing, but at least 1,000 have entered Iraqi Kurdistan this week.
The UNHCR said on Wednesday that it was operating with just 54 staff in Qamishli, to the east of much of the fighting, and had eight operational centers in Hasakah governorate. It warned that as many as 400,000 people may need assistance if the fighting continues.
Turkey-backed forces were in charge of areas around Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad as of Thursday morning, and control of areas such as the critical M4 highway remains fluid as the two sides fight for control.
Syrian regime forces who entered Manbij on Tuesday and Kobani on Wednesday have mostly moved to frontlines outside the cities where they are working alongside the SDF under a military agreement announced on October 13.