More than 200,000 Syrians who fled Afrin have no shelter

BEIRUT: More than 200,000 people who fled a Turkey-led offensive on the Kurdish town of Afrin are without shelter or access to food and water in nearby areas, a Syrian Kurdish official from Afrin said on Monday.
“The people with cars are sleeping in the cars, the people without are sleeping under the trees with their children,” Hevi Mustafa, a top member of the Kurdish civil authority in the Afrin area, said by phone.
Turkish forces backed by Syrian rebel groups swept into Afrin town on Sunday, raising their flag in the town centre and declaring full control after an eight-week campaign to drive out Kurdish YPG fighters.
Mustafa said civilians still in Afrin town were facing threats from the Turkey-backed groups.
Meanwhile, Ankara’s main spokesman said on Monday that Turkish forces will not remain in Afrin and will leave the region to its “real owners”, after Turkey’s military and its Syrian rebel allies stormed the town over the weekend.
Bekir Bozdag, a deputy prime minister, also told reporters that Turkey had significantly reduced threats to its borders after capturing the town of Afrin.
He said Turkey had collected “most” of the weapons given to Kurdish fighters by the United States, after the YPG left weapons behind as they fled the town.
Syria opposition leaders and Kurdish officials on Monday condemned reported looting by Turkish-led forces who seized the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin the previous day. Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies made a lightning advance into the city after Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia appeared to have retreated.
AFP reporters in Afrin and a war monitor said Turkish-backed Syrian forces went on a rampage after taking the city, pillaging shops and homes.
A rebel leader early on Monday condemned their behaviour.
“The looting and stealing of private and public property is a crime,” said Mohamed Alloush, a key figure in the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.
“All those who took part in this decadence need to have their hands slapped hard,” he said on Twitter, calling for them to face trial and for victims to receive compensation.
The fighters broke into shops, restaurants and houses and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the AFP reporters said. They placed the loot in cars and small trucks and drove them out of the city, they added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor also reported looting, saying Turkey’s Syrian allies “have begun pillaging private property, political and military sites and shops”.
— Agencies