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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Aid convoy arrives in Syria's Afrin, Red Cross says

The ICRC said that 30 per cent of Afrin's population has been displaced

A handout photo made available by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent shows a convoy of lorries carrying aid material heading to Afrin on March 1, 2018. EPA
A handout photo made available by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent shows a convoy of lorries carrying aid material heading to Afrin on March 1, 2018. EPA

A convoy carrying humanitarian aid for 50,000 displaced people arrived in Afrin in Syria, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, as Turkey continues its offensive in the Kurdish-held enclave.

Iolanda Jaquemet, an ICRC spokeswoman, said this marks the first time this year that the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent received agreement from the warring sides to allow such a convoy in.

She added that the ICRC was concerned the fighting between Turkish forces and the Kurdish YPG militia is moving closer to a dam and water treatment facility, which are vital to the people in the area.

The 29-truck convoy was carrying 430 tonnes of food, daily essentials, water purification materials and medical supplies, she said.

It is unclear how many people have been displaced since the offensive on Afrin began in January, but the UN estimated 30,000 have had to leave their homes.

Ms Jaquemet said 30 per cent of the population of Afrin district was thought to be displaced, but she did not have any other figures.

"The majority are living in dire conditions and are hosted in communities and collective centres. The ongoing fighting has forced thousands more to flee. What we are doing now is to meet the most pressing needs of the most vulnerable," she said.

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Ankara launched its offensive against the YPG militia, which it regards as a terrorist group linked to the PKK – Kurdish militants who have been battling Turkish forces in southeast Turkey for more than three decades.

Commenting on the proximity of the dam and water treatment area to the fighting, Ms Jaquement said: "Were they to be damaged it would deprive at least 200,000 people of water."

There are only four hospitals thought to be still operating and in some areas of Afrin people in dire need of medical care were not able to reach the nearest medical centre, she said.