Uptick of Hostilities lead to Power Cuts and result in increased Humanitarian and Environmental Risks - Syrian Arab Republic

Uptick of Hostilities lead to Power Cuts and result in increased Humanitarian and Environmental Risks - Syrian Arab Republic

Updated: 5 days, 22 hours, 35 minutes, 2 seconds ago

The NES NGO Forum calls on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease all hostilities across northern frontlines impacting civilian lives and infrastructure and to ensure that NGOs retain unimpeded humanitarian access in order to be able to deliver critical services to the affected population.

On 20 November, the Government of Türkiye announced renewed military operations in northern Syria and parts of Iraq. Since then, Northeast Syria is facing a significant increase in shelling, artillery and drone strikes. These strikes have directly targeted cities and villages across northern frontlines, leading to civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure. Shellings not only continue to cause injury and death, but may prevent returns, lay waste to agricultural land, and impede humanitarian access on the long term by increasing levels of unexploded ordnance contamination.

During these military operations in Northeast Syria, at least 10 civilian casualties have been reported during recent escalations, and during at least 17 incidents civilian infrastructure was damaged. Kobani town has been impacted for 4 consecutive days since the escalations resumed, including the targeting of a hospital under construction on 22 November, and attacks on 23 November that targeted the densely populated Qamishli City. These attacks started only a day after 82 countries agreed to enforce stronger standards to protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons on populated areas.1

The recent increase in targeted attacks on oil and gas fields and electric power plants are impacting essential electric and oil infrastructures and hinder electricity and fuel service delivery for civilians. The attack near Sweidiyeh power plant on 23 November which feeds electricity to Alouk water station and all highly populated areas and cities in the upper Jazeera region, has already caused power and internet cuts in Derek town and Derek and Hasakah sub-districts and could potentially lead to widespread electricity and water shortages in the coming days. Targeting oil and gas fields will potentially add to the detrimental impact on the environment, and any reduced availability of electricity and fuel will directly impair operations of water stations and thereby worsen access to safe drinking water. This comes amidst an ongoing water crisis, partly due to continuous disruptions of Alouk Water Station, and a cholera outbreak that has led to 20.096 infections as of 21 November.

In July this year, the NES Forum warned about the impact that any further escalations of violence along northern frontlines would have on civilian lives. Humanitarian NGOs in Northeast Syria are highly concerned about the ongoing rhetoric of further military escalation and reiterate the dire consequences that any further large-scale offensive will have by placing up to 150,000 people at immediate risk of being forced into long-term displacement. This will add to the over half a million people that are already displaced across Northeast Syria. Ongoing escalations have started to cause small-scale suspensions of NGO movements and operations in affected areas, although NES NGOs largely remain present and operational while incorporating precautionary measures to ensure safety of staff and operations.

The NES Forum calls on all parties to adhere to the principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) that provide protection to civilian lives, property, and infrastructure. Attacks on civilian objects and medical units constitute violations of Customary IHL, invoking the obligations of other states to bring them to an end, and give rise to further violations of established human rights law. Any violation of IHL and HRL should be investigated to ensure accountability of those responsible.

We also urge the international community to take immediate action to seek cessation of hostilities, prevent further violations of international law, and enable humanitarian actors to provide necessary assistance for the growing needs of the population.

1 https://www.inew.org/dublin-conference-to-adopt-the-political-declaration-on-explosive-weapons/