As the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria begins, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is deeply concerned about the lives and livelihoods of the two million civilians at risk - many of whom have already survived ISIS brutality and multiple displacements. A military offensive could displace 300,000 people and sever life-saving humanitarian services, including the IRC's. Even a limited military initiative could see 60,000 displaced, the majority of whom were already in dire humanitarian need.

IRC staff on the ground have confirmed reports of shelling and airstrikes in Tal Abyad near the Turkish border. IRC staff are also hearing reports of airstrikes and shelling in Ras al Ayn, another city on the border further east.

Misty Buswell, Middle East Policy Director at the International Rescue Committee said: “The IRC is deeply concerned about the impact of this escalation on civilians, including our own staff members and their families, and the destabilizing effect this will have on a population that has already borne the brunt of the eight-year-long conflict in Syria. Many of these people have already been displaced multiple times and suffered horribly under the brutal rule of ISIS, only to be facing yet another crisis.”

The IRC is hearing reports of civilians leaving these areas with only the clothes on their backs. Many are likely to flee to Raqqa, a city devastated by the fight against ISIS that is still barely safe for civilians as it is still littered with unexploded mines, and lacking in basic services such as electricity and housing. The camps in the surrounding areas are also overstretched and any new displacement is likely to further push humanitarian services to their limit.

The IRC calls on all parties involved to halt the military offensive before it escalates further and for all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure they are spared from the worst effects of conflict.

The IRC has been delivering aid in Syria since 2012, and last year IRC and partners delivered services to over a million people in the country. In northeast Syria, IRC and partners are providing healthcare, cash, psychosocial support and other vital services.