Syria: ‘Most alarming reports’ coming from Idlib: UN official

30th Jan 2020
Syria:  ‘Most alarming reports’ coming from Idlib: UN official

By Beyza Binnur Donmez

 

(AA): A senior UN official on Wednesday voiced his concern over “the dire and deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib.

Mark Lowcock, under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in his briefing to the UN Security Council that “the most alarming reports” are coming from southern Idlib, “where hundreds of airstrikes by the government of Syria and its allies have been concentrated.”

“The hostilities have escalated in recent days in the Idlib area, especially around Ma’arat al-Numan, Saraqeb and western Aleppo,” Lowcock said, adding: “The fighting in these areas appears to be more intense than anything we have seen in the last year.”

Citing the data of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he said that at least 81 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed as a result of airstrikes and ground-based strikes in the week of Jan. 15-23.

“This total is in addition to the more than 1,500 civilian deaths that OHCHR has verified since the escalation began in late April,” he said.

Lowcock also briefed the Security Council about the people fleeing the attacks.

“Most of the affected people – more than 99% of them – have been moving from southern Idlib to other locations in non-government-controlled areas,” he said.

“Our assessment is that [at] least 20,000 people have moved in the last two days. Some 115,000 have left in the past week. Nearly 390,000 have fled in the past two months,” he added.

Lowcock stressed that although Turkey and Russia announced a cease-fire on Jan. 12, the deal “did not hold”.

Approximately 541,000 civilians have been displaced from the settlements of Idlib’s southern, southeastern, and Aleppo’s western and southern rural areas since Nov. 2019.

Due to the rising displaced population, the tent camps in Idlib fail to meet the needs of war-weary Syrians as there is not enough space to set up more tents. Thousands of families are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Some displaced people arrived in tent camps along Turkey’s borderline and some fled to areas of Peace Spring and Olive Branch operations which the Turkish army cleared of terrorists.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of terrorist groups, is the strongest militant groups in northern Syria and largely controls Idlib province, including the provincial capital and the border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa.

The UN, US and Turkey consider HTS group associated with al-Qa’ida as a terrorist organisation.

Other main rebel groups in Idlib are: National Liberation Front (Turkish-backed rebel alliance); Hurras al-Din (pro-al-Qa’ida HTS offshoot) and Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP, Chinese Uighur-dominated group)

Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terrorist operations across its border into northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor: Operations Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (October 2019).

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

Turkey announced on Jan. 10 that a new cease-fire in Idlib would start just after midnight on Jan. 12. However, the regime and Iran-backed terrorist groups continued their ground attacks.

More than 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the last year.

Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Archive Photo: A file drone photo dated on December 23, 2019 shows ruins of buildings in Maarat al-Numan district of Idlib, Syria. Syria, backed by Russian forces seized Maarat al-Numan district in Idlib. Photographer; İzzeddin İdilbi/AA]

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