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Turkish offensive on Afrin cuts fuel supply to 2 million in Idlib

Turkish armed forces is seen in Afrin, Syria on 25 January 2018 [Sarp Özer/Anadolu Agency]

The price of fuel has doubled for the two million people in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province, after the Turkish assault on Afrin disrupted trade routes, according to news agency Syria Direct.

Residents, hospitals and traders are being forced to utilise their stockpiles of mazot, a cheap form of diesel, to keep electricity and heat running, with the price per barrel rising from 40,000 Syrian pounds ($77) to 75,000 ($145) in the span of just five days.

“Fuel is the backbone of life in Idlib city,” Ismael Al-Andani, president of the Syrian Salvation Government’s Idlib city council, said yesterday. “We rely on it for electrical generators, transportation, machinery and bakeries. Our fear is that this closure will last for long time.”

Turkish armed force and the allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) began “Operation Olive Branch” on Saturday, an air and ground assault on Kurdish-controlled Afrin, cutting off the supply route that delivered fuel to opposition territories.

The main road between the country’s oil-rich east and Idlib has been inaccessible since 2016 after the regime took control of the area. Drivers were then forced to traverse a longer route through Afrin to bring butane gas and fuel to more than two million residents in western Aleppo, Idlib and northern Hama provinces.

Checkpoints along this route have now been closed as Turkey launched their assault via the FSA-held, adjacent Azaz city, Kurdish officials confirmed.

Read: Idlib offensive heralds new phase of Syrian conflict

47 year-old Mansour Abu Turki, an east Aleppo plumber now living in northern Idlib, told Syria Direct that he was shocked to see how quickly prices rose. He had bought a few litres of fuel just three days earlier.

“I’m not a wealthy man, so I can only buy a little at a time,” he said. The father of five bought the ten litres of mazot that he could afford.

“When I returned home, we began to burn old clothing and shoes for heat. In this war, we are the ones who bear the loss.”

Idlib and its surrounding areas have been under control of opposition groups since 2015, forming a strategic stronghold for numerous factions. Despite being a designated de-escalation zone as per the Astana agreement between Russia, Iran and Turkey, the region faces regular shelling and has been subject to an intensified assault by regime forces in recent months.

Read: UN express concern at besieged Eastern Ghouta, Idlib

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