Syria ǀ Flash Update #7, Humanitarian impact of the military operation in north-eastern Syria, 16 - 18 October 2019 [EN/AR]
On the evening of 17 October, the United States announced an agreement for a 5-day ceasefire (120 hours) following meetings with the Turkish President to allow for the withdrawal of SDF forces from the Syrian-Turkish border. The announcement followed intense clashes in Ras Al Ain city – which was reportedly encircled by Turkish forces earlier that same day – and an appeal by health actors in the city to evacuate civilians and those who had been injured.
Despite the announcement of the ceasefire, shelling and gunfire continue to be reported in Ras Al Ain as of the morning of 18 October. No information is currently available on casualties. The situation is reportedly calm elsewhere.
In just over a week, at least 165,000 people have been displaced, including an estimated 70,000 children. Of those displaced, around 8,000 people are being hosted in 48 collective shelters across 8 sub-districts of Al-Hasakeh governorate. The rest are residing in host communities.
On 17 October reports were also received that 3,250 families (around 16,250 people) had been displaced from communities in northern Aleppo towards Menbij. Displaced families are reportedly staying with relatives and in informal settlements.
As of 17 October, around 91,000 people remain in five camps across North East Syria (Al Hol, Areesheh, Mabruka, Al Roj and Mahmudli). The remaining 15 households in Ein Issa camp departed on 16 October. Efforts to evacuate the 14 families (83 individuals) who are still in Mabruka are underway – three medical cases were evacuated on 17 October and taken to a hospital 60 km away from the camp, although specialized services are required to treat these individuals.
Although return movements to Quamishli have been observed, exact figures are yet to be confirmed.
The United Nations and partners have seen worrying reports of attacks impacting medical facilities and airstrikes causing civilians deaths.
Phase II of the Alok mission to repair the water system that serves over 400,000 people in Al-Hasakeh is planned to take place in the coming days.
Despite challenges, humanitarian partners continue to assist people in need where access is possible. Focus has been placed on support to those newly-displaced – both in 48 collective shelters and host communities – as well as IDPs in five camps. Food security partners are providing blanket food rations to up to 580,000 people in Ar-Raqqa and Al Hasakeh governorates to ensure that all affected people are reached as a first-line response, while essential services such as health and water are also being provided.
Stocks of food and medicine, as well as necessary pipelines for bringing aid into the area and referral pathways to move those in need to adequate care facilities, are in place to meet many of the immediate needs, and partners continue to scale up their response across all areas.
While existing readiness measures have ensured that many of required supplies are available to meet needs, stocks have had to be diverted from regular programming and are being depleted. Additional resources are therefore urgently needed in order to maintain pipelines. To date, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan remain only 40 per cent funded.
On 17 October, an announcement of a ceasefire for 120 hours was made. Gunfire and shelling continues to be reported in the towns of Lazqa, Marikiz, Bab al-Khair and Qabr Sheikh Hussein in Ras Al Ain as of the morning of 18 October. The announcement of the ceasefire followed a two-day period in which military activities appeared to slow, with the exception of Ras Al Ain where clashes intensified as Turkish Armed Forces and allied NSAGs encircled the city and advanced deeper into both Ras Al Ain and Tell Abiad sub-districts. Calls for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians and injured from Ras Al Ain were subsequently made on 17 October, and discussions are ongoing with relevant parties to determine what support is required as well as to establish protocols for future medical evacuations from TAF areas. SARC has ambulances and buses available for the medical evacuations.
Following the withdrawal of US forces, Government of Syria (GoS) forces entered the Ain Al Arab area in Aleppo Governorate on 16 October, while expanding their presence in Menbij sub-district, including Menbij town. That same day, demonstrations occurred in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held areas in rural Deir-ez-Zor Governorate against the military agreement between SDF and the GoS, with some elements threatening to target GoS forces should they enter the area.
While no party appears to have full control over the M4 highway -the main transport route running east-west across northern Syria - NSAGs are trying to strengthen their position around the M4, in areas south of Ras Al Ain city and some parts remain cut off. Despite this, an alternative route to the M4 has been used by some agencies in the past days – through Tabqa - to continue sending supplies to the area. Border crossings also remain open as does the airport in Quamishli.
Civilian casualties are being heavily reported in the media from both sides of the border as a result of shelling and ongoing hostilities.