Northeastern Syria: Turkish military operations result in displacement and hospital closure

Civilians fleeing offensive in Ras al-Ain, Syria

Syria 2019 © Delil Suleiman/AFP

NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM/NORTHEASTERN SYRIA, October 10, 2019—Since Turkey launched military operations in northeastern Syria yesterday, towns and villages along the border have been hit by heavy shelling and people are fleeing for their lives, in need of medical and humanitarian aid, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

"This escalation can only exacerbate the trauma that the people of Syria have already endured through years of war," said Robert Onus, MSF emergency manager for Syria. "Displacement and injuries caused by fighting are likely to put additional pressure on the already limited resources in hospitals."

In the border town Tal Abyad, in Raqqa governorate, shelling has forced the vast majority of people to flee. Tal Abyad hospital, which was supported by MSF, is completely closed after most of the medical staff left with their families. MSF teams have relocated to address needs in other parts of the region. As the only public hospital in the area, Tal Abyad hospital was critical to meeting the health needs of the town and surrounding areas.

"Our staff in Tal Abyad witnessed the town, which was once filled with life, become deserted," said Onus. "After eight years of war, the Syrian people have once again been forced to leave their homes and belongings to seek safety."

In Tal Tamer, a small town in western al-Hasakah governorate, MSF's teams have witnessed almost 2,000 people displaced from Ras Al Ain. MSF teams in Tal Tamer are distributing relief items to people taking refuge in schools, office buildings, shops, and the homes of relatives and residents.

Many thousands of women and children living in camps such as Al Hol and Ain Issa are also now particularly vulnerable, as humanitarian organizations have been forced to suspend or limit operations. This could leave thousands of people without access to critical aid, with no resolution in sight.

MSF will continue to provide medical and other assistance where possible, in response to the growing need for humanitarian assistance. MSF teams remain across northeastern Syria in Ain Al Arab (Kobane), Ain Issa, Al-Malikiyah (Derek), Tal Tamer, Tal Kosher, Al Hol, and Raqqa. 

MSF calls on all warring parties in northeastern Syria to ensure the protection of civilians, including health workers and patients. Warring parties must allow the unhindered delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid, including impartial medical care everywhere in the region.