A Turkish strike on Kurdish positions in Syria killed 24 civilians, including six children, last month, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, warning that ordinary citizens were bearing the brunt of the conflict.
The strike, which according to the report hit an area where four dozen civilians had sought shelter from nearby fighting, came four days into a Turkish invasion of northern Syria to fight Islamic State and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“The deaths of 24 civilians could have been avoided if the SDF fighters hadn’t positioned themselves among buildings filled with civilians and Turkish forces had made a better effort to determine whether civilians were there,” said Ole Solvang, a researcher with the New York-based group.
The US-backed SDF has been the main force on the ground pushing back the Islamic State extremist group. Turkey has been wary of Kurdish gains in northern Syria and has sought to curtail an SDF advance.
The US was critical of Turkish attacks on the Kurds and pushed Ankara to stop striking the SDF and focus on Islamic State.
Turkey moved rebel factions it backs, including hardline Islamic groups, into areas of northern Syria to fight both groups. The combined forces have since cleared Islamic State from the last parts Turkish border which the SDF had not yet captured.
There was no immediate response from the Turkish government to the report but the government last month said it only killed "terrorists."
The information from Human Rights Watch corroborates reports at the time from forces on the ground and local activists.