Human Rights Watch: Turkey’s airstrikes leave North and East Syria in desperate situation, millions without basic services

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — While global attention remains fixed on the unfolding tragedy in Gaza, another crisis is deepening in North and East Syria as Turkey’s airstrikes and drone attacks relentlessly target critical civilian infrastructure, leaving communities in dire straits without access to essential services.

In late October 2023, Human Rights Watch reported that Turkish strikes had triggered widespread disruptions in water and electricity supply for millions. These strikes targeted vital facilities including water and electrical power stations, oil installations, and the only operational gas plant for domestic use in the entire region.

In an updated report, Human Rights Watch stated that the situation has worsened in December and January as Turkey escalated its attacks to include medical facilities and crucial access roads used by humanitarian responders, according to the Northeast Syria – Non-governmental Organization Forum (NES-NGO Forum), a coalition of international organizations working in the area.

The strikes have left essential facilities in ruins, rendering hospitals, bakeries, and water facilities inoperable. The scarcity of fuel, necessary for cooking, heating, and farming, exacerbates the crisis.

As of the end of January, NES–NGO Forum reported that 1 million people in cities and villages had been plunged into darkness due to electricity cuts, while over 2 million faced limited access to safe water. Damage inflicted on medical facilities in December disrupted oxygen supplies to more than a dozen hospitals, while strikes on 28 health facilities severely disrupted their services, heightening the risk of water-borne diseases. The forum warned that the extent of the damage far exceeds the humanitarian community’s capacity to sustain emergency life-saving services.

As the crisis in North and East Syria deepens, urgent action is imperative to mitigate the humanitarian fallout on the civilian population. Human Rights Watch called on Turkey to immediately cease its targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, adhere to international humanitarian law, and hold those responsible for serious violations to account.