Reports that the Syrian regime had opened a "humanitarian corridor" offering civilians a safe exit out of the embattled Idlib province are false, the UK-based organisation Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said yesterday.
SOHR, which documents human rights violations in Syria, told the news outlet Voice of America (VAO) later yesterday that the corridor is non-existent, and that there were no civilians that have remained in the area as they had already fled following the regime's constant shelling.
Rami Abdulrahman, the head of SOHR, stated: "This corridor is placed by the Russians and the Syrian regime for media purposes to say that civilians are fleeing toward regime-controlled areas."
The revelation of the fake news comes a day after Syrian state news announced the opening of the corridor, inviting civilians and inhabitants in the countryside of southern Idlib and northern Hama to cross over to regime-held territory.
Abdulrahman added that even if the news were true, no civilians would return to the regime's territory as they fear retribution if they did so. Such fears follow previous promises by the regime of reconciliation with opposition fighters, civilians from former opposition-held areas and refugees from neighbouring countries such as Lebanon. Upon their return many were once again subject to repression, arrest and torture at the hands of the regime.
The Syrian regime has been bombing Idlib in an effort to recapture the opposition's final major stronghold. Hundreds have been killed, thousands wounded and numerous villages, hospitals and schools have been destroyed in the process. The ongoing all-out air and land assault began in April and has intensified over recent the months, with Russian troops and Iranian forces recently been deployed to the province to fight alongside the Syrian regime.
Over the past week, the regime and its allies have been making rapid advances in the campaign to retake Idlib, with one of the latest devastating losses for the Syrian opposition occurring earlier in the week when the city of Khan Sheikhoun and its surrounding hills and checkpoints fell into the regime's hands.