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Amnesty International accuses Turkey of war crimes in Syria

Rights group alleges that Turkish military and allied rebels have carried out ‘summary killings and unlawful attacks’ in Kurdish areas

This picture taken on October 17, 2019, from the Turkish side of the border with Syria in the Ceylanpinar district city of Sanliurfa, shows smoke and fire rising from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during the Turkish offensive against Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria. (Ozan Kose/AFP)
This picture taken on October 17, 2019, from the Turkish side of the border with Syria in the Ceylanpinar district city of Sanliurfa, shows smoke and fire rising from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during the Turkish offensive against Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

BEIRUT — Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies have committed “war crimes” including summary executions during their offensive in northeast Syria, Amnesty International said Friday.

Amnesty accused Ankara’s forces of “serious violations and war crimes, summary killings and unlawful attacks” in the operation launched on October 9.

There was no immediate response from Ankara, which announced a suspension of the attacks late Thursday, but it says all possible measures have been taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Ankara’s operation aims to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from areas near its border in northern Syria.

The offensive has killed at least 72 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life,” Amnesty said.

Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border on October 14, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. (Zein Al Rifai/AFP)

The charges were based on the testimony of 17 people including medical, aid and rescue workers, journalists and displaced people, as well as video footage, it said.

“The information gathered provides damning evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, including attacks on a home, a bakery and a school, carried out by Turkey and allied Syrian armed groups,” Amnesty said.

Kumi Naidoo, the organization’s secretary-general, said Turkish forces and their allies had “displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives.”

The report included testimony of a Kurdish Red Crescent worker who said he removed bodies from the wreckage of a Turkish air strike near a school in Salhiye on October 12.

Hevrin Khalaf (Facebook)

“I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls because their corpses were black. They looked like charcoal,” the rescue worker was quoted as saying.

It also said Kurdish female politician Hevrin Khalaf and her bodyguard were summarily executed by members of the Syrian National Army, a Turkish-funded and -trained group.

At least two more executions of Kurdish fighters were confirmed, while Turkey’s Syrian allies had kidnapped two employees of a local medical organization, Amnesty said.

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