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Turkish Attacks Displace 1,800 People in Northern Iraq

The U.N. refugee agency says it is concerned about the plight of more than 1,800 people who have been displaced by Turkish military strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is distributing supplies to help more than 1,800 people who fled their homes in the Sangasar sub district of Sulaymania Governorate and from Doli Shahidan in Erbil Governorate.

The Turkish government accuses rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, of launching attacks on Turkey from bases inside Iraq. Over the weekend, Turkish planes launched attacks against alleged PKK bases in the border area.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Astrid van Genderen Stort, says shelling continues.

"We do not know if more people are being displaced. But, at least we are trying to help now the 1,800 people," she said. "The people moved to safer areas in the Governorate. They are now staying with families and friends. But, they are worried to stay much longer. They are afraid they cannot stay too longer. The winter has set in. The conditions are very harsh. The host families do not have a lot to help these people as well. And, the people that are displaced do not have any money to rent homes. So, they are worried. They hope that they will be able to go back soon. But, of course, we do not know. "

UNHCR's Genderen Stort says the displaced people told aid workers 10 villages had been affected by the shelling. She says one woman was reported killed and several people injured.

"The mukhtar (head of a local village) of one of the villages told us that six bridges had been destroyed which connect the villages with each other," she said. "Over 200 head of livestock have also been killed. Some of the families told us that they left behind members of their family in the affected villages as they could not leave the livestock that is still alive untended. A lack of pasture or space in other villages did not allow them to bring the livestock along and some of the village elders in the other villages did not want this extra livestock."

Genderen Stort says UNHCR and its partners are distributing blankets, mattresses, stoves, jerry cans and soap. She says there is an urgent need for kerosene.