Turkey has said it is willing to facilitate humanitarian access in Syria's northwestern Afrin region, U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said Wednesday. "The Turkish authorities have emphasized to us their willingness to facilitate humanitarian access," Lowcock said, informing the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) about humanitarian developments in Syria. "We would like to see aid convoys run from Damascus, but that has not thus far been agreed on the Syrian side."
Afrin has been a major base of operations for the PKK terrorist organization's Syrian affiliate the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People's Protection Units (YPG) forces since July 2012, when Syria's Bashar Assad regime left the region to the terrorist group without a fight. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched operation Olive Branch with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Jan. 20 to clear Afrin of the YPG, which poses a threat to Turkey's national security.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and EU, having waged a terrorist campaign against the Turkish state for more than 30 years, killing in which nearly 40,000 have died. Additionally, Lowcock said that civilians who want to flee Afrin continue prevented from accessing to safer areas by the YPG at exit points.
Civilians refer to the PYD and YPG as the local authorities. "Those who risk moving continue to be stopped at exit points by local authorities in Afrin, preventing them from accessing safer areas," Lowcock said. The group has reportedly also been using human shields since Turkey began its operation in Afrin, as they mix in residential areas and wear civilian clothes to make it seem the Turkish forces are attacking civilians.
Meanwhile, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced that an aid convoy entered Afrin, marking the first such aid delivered to the city since Operation Olive Branch was launched.
The 29-truck convoy included 430 metric tons of humanitarian aid, including food, medical supplies and water purification materials, Ingy Sedki, an ICRC spokeswoman in Syria said.