The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), has strongly condemned the shelling of a mountain resort in the Kurdistan region of Dohuk Governorate on Wednesday, which reportedly killed eight tourists and wounded more than 20 others. In a statement issued on Thursday, the UN chief added his condemnation and called for a prompt investigation into the shelling.
The deadly attack in the Zakho district, took place close to the border with Türkiye.
According to news reports, Iraqi State media claimed that Turkish forces had been responsible for the shelling – a claim refuted by the Turkish Government.
Among the dead was a one-year-old, according to a statement released by the Kurdish health minister, who said the victims had all died before they could reach a hospital.
The UN Children's Fund UNICEF, reported that a 12 year-old and 16 year-old were also killed. In a statement issued late on Wednesday, UNICEF Representative in Iraq, Sheema SenGupta, said the attack was "devastating proof of the need to stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas."
UNAMI expressed its deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Civilians suffer again
“Civilians are once again suffering the indiscriminate effects of explosive weapons. Under international law, attacks must not be directed at the civilian population”, said the UNAMI statement.
“UNAMI therefore calls for a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the attack and emphasizes that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Iraq must be respected at all times.”
Turkish forces are engaged in military activity in the area, as part of Government counter-terrorism operations against outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, both of which are seen by Ankara as terrorist groups. The PKK began military action against Türkiye in the mid-1980s.
UNICEF's Ms. SenGupta added that all children in Iraq, deserve to live their lives without the constant threat of violence, exacerbated by the use of explosive weapons. UNICEF calls on all parties to fulfill their obligations, under international law, to protect children at all times, and without delay."
The ‘new normal’?
When the UN Special Representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert briefed the Security Council in May, she warned of the dangers of rising violence, UNAMI noted.
"What are we looking at? Shelling and missiles as the new normal for Iraq? This is a very risky way to advance interests, and one which further weakens the State of Iraq", she told ambassadors.
UNAMI urged all parties engaged in military operations in the region, to cease any violations against civilians, without delay.