ARBIL, IRAQ – Hundreds of Syrian Kurds entered neighboring Iraqi’s Kurdish autonomous region on Wednesday, fleeing a Turkish invasion, an official said.
“On Wednesday, about 800 Syrian refugees entered Iraqi Kurdistan,” said Rashid Hussein of the refugee authority for the autonomous Kurdish region.
The new arrivals, mostly women and children, were being taken to Berdarch camp in Dohuk province, he told AFP, as the fighting in nearby northeastern Syria entered its second week.
Iraqi Kurdistan previously hosted millions of Iraqis who fled fighting with Islamic State group jihadis who occupied much of the country’s north between 2014 and 2017.
Many of them are still housed in camps for the displaced.
NGOs operating in the region said they had been on alert since Ankara launched its operation on Oct. 9 against Kurdish militants, following an abrupt U.S. withdrawal.
On Saturday evening, 182 Syrian Kurds started crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan “to escape bombardments in northeastern Syria,” the International Organization for Migration said.
Dohuk province’s humanitarian affairs chief, Ismail Ahmed, said the first group included “Syrian Kurds already living in Iraqi Kurdistan, who went to visit relatives in Syria before returning because of the bombardments.”
On Wednesday, fresh fighting was reported in northern Syria pitting Turkey’s Syrian proxies against Kurdish forces backed by the Syrian army.
Damascus deployed troops to Kurdish-held areas that had been outside its control since 2012 under an accord with Kurdish authorities announced on Sunday.