At least 17 villages have been “completely destroyed” as the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its principal international ally, Russia, press a military offensive on northwestern Syria’s Idlib province, the UN said Tuesday, reports Anadolu Agency.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordinator, told the Security Council that the regime’s more than three-month offensive has left villages in southern Idlib not only decimated but “emptied” as well.
“For more than 90 days now bombing and shelling by the Government of Syria and the Russian Federation has produced carnage in the so-called de-escalation zone of Idlib,” Lowcock said. “What you see is a level of destruction consistent with a bombing campaign aimed at a scorched earth policy.”
Lowcock acknowledged the continued presence of al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib but said UN estimates indicate there are “about 100 civilians for every fighter” tied to the terror group.
At least 450 civilians have been killed since the regime offensive began in April, according to the UN. That includes over 100 in the past two weeks.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September, to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
The area is currently inhabited by about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the regime and allied forces from their cities and towns throughout the war-weary country.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced during the course of Syria’s more than eight-year conflict.