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Turkish assault on Syrian city of Afrin could kill 1 million civilians, Christian activists warn

(Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)People flee after Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters captured Khaldieh village in eastern Afrin.

Christian activists have warned that about a million Syrian civilians are facing certain death in northwestern Afrin because of assault being carried out by Turkey and its allies.

Since launching the offensive on the Afrin enclave on Jan. 20, Turkey-led rebels have advanced to the outskirts of the city, sparking fears that it could become besieged. More than 2,000 civilians have reportedly fled from the enclave to the area of Nubul to avoid the Turkish-led advance, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Two Christian activists, Bassam Ishak and Lauren Homer, are now appealing to U.S. President Donald Trump and top U.S. officials to stop the offensive, warning that the failure to act would jeopardize the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State in Syria.

Ishak and Homer have accused Turkey of committing "war crimes" and "ethnic cleansing" for launching the campaign in Afrin.

"Turkey has already 'cleared' villages of Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others, promising to replace them with Syrian refugees. In fact, Afrin already has enlarged its population by 50 percent to house (internally displaced) Syrians, who are among those being killed, injured or captured," they said, as reported by Catholic News Service.

The activists are demanding the implementation of the Feb. 24 U.N. Security Council resolution requiring a cease-fire by Turkey in Afrin, as well as a no-fly zone, enforced by U.S. drones or warplanes, over the enclave. They are also calling for humanitarian aid and safe passage out for civilians.

Additionally, the activists are asking for mediation of a long-term cease-fire and withdrawal of Turkish troops to their own borders.

"This U.N. and U.S. and NATO inaction will go down in infamy as an inconceivable abandonment of our 'allies' the SDF and the FNS. Genocide seems to be only something we are interested in in retrospect, to mourn and wring our hands over," said Homer.

The Kurdish council that governs Afrin have also called on the U.N. Security Council to establish a no-fly zone over the enclave and forcibly respond to the Turkish offensive.

Turkey has explained that it is battling Kurdish "terrorists" to justify the offensive in Afrin, which has been largely untouched by Syria's deadly conflict until recently.

The enclave has been hailed for its success in creating a nonsectarian, pluralist, inclusive government system that grants religious freedom and equal rights to all of its residents. About 60 percent of the Afrin enclave has been captured by pro-Turkish forces since Jan. 20, according to SOHR.

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