Residents queue for water next to a tank at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, on July 23, 2019. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP

Original article by Rudaw, November 8th, 2019

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Nearly half a million people in northern Syria may soon be without clean drinking water as a key piece of infrastructure, damaged by Turkish bombs, remains out of service, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned on Friday. 

Alouk water pumping station is located east of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and provides clean water for the surrounding area including Hasaka city, Areesha camp, and al-Hol camp. It was damaged in a Turkish bombardment on October 11.

The facility was damaged a second time on October 29 and fighting in the area prevented repair crews from accessing the site. Syrian state media SANA accused Turkish-backed militias of preventing specialized teams from reaching Alouk.

Turkey “has cut our water and we have been drinking water from wells for ten days. I do not know what Turkey wants from innocent people,” Abu Dani, 63, a resident of Tel Tamr told Rudaw. 

The ICRC warned on Friday that the prolonged shut down of the pumping station could cause a humanitarian crisis.

“It’s imperative that we find a solution to this nascent water crisis. A water station that serves 400,000 people is a critical piece of infrastructure that must be put into action,” said Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC’s regional director. 

“This is another example of civilians who are not taking part in conflict suffering from it nonetheless,” he added. ICRC and its Syrian branch are distributing drinking water to the affected areas.

Turkey launched its Operation Peace Spring one month ago with the goal of forcing Kurdish forces away from the border and establishing a safe zone to accommodate anywhere from one to three million Syrian refugees now sheltering in Turkey. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with which it has been engaged in a decades-long conflict. 

Turkish officials state that their military offensive is solely against the armed forces and not Kurdish civilians, but Kurds accuse Turkey of carrying out ethnic cleansing and demographic change. 

The United States and Russia separately brokered ceasefires with Turkey, but clashes continue with each side accusing the other of violating the truces. 

The M4 highway, the main east-west artery that runs across northern Syria has been cut by clashes, pushing all traffic, including humanitarian aid and basic goods, onto secondary routes, sending food prices soaring. The United Nations’ humanitarian office has noted a 20 percent increase in food prices.

There are also shortages of fresh produce in the markets after farmers were forced off their lands, the Rojava Information Centre reported.

Feeling betrayed by the United States, which greenlit Turkey’s operation, the Syrian Kurdish leadership is appealing to European allies to take a firm hand with Turkey. 

“EU-candidate Turkey is not the same Turkey you think you know – it is now a radical Islamist state and you, Europe, should understand that,” Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) executive, told Reuters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with his British, French, and German counterparts to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the NATO leaders meeting in London in early December, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday. 

Erdogan has said Turkey will stay in Syria as long as other foreign nations remain in the embattled country and until “every last terrorist leaves the region.”

With reporting from Roj Eli Zalla