Some 148,000 civilians have been displaced from Syria’s Idlib over the past six days bringing the total number of Syrians who have been forced to flee the area since January to nearly two million, according to Syria’s Response Coordination Group.
The majority of those who have escaped have headed north towards the Turkish border where Tens of thousands of people, including women and children, who have already set up camp are living in dire conditions and are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. They face great difficulty meeting their food and healthcare needs.
With the frequency of air strikes having increased, and a large-scale ground offensive having begun, the humanitarian organisations are extremely concerned that a return to the intense fighting seen earlier this year may soon take place.
More than a million civilians in the city of Idlib and its surroundings are threatened with displacement into the unknown as a result of air strikes targeting the city since this morning.
More than a million civilians in the city of Idlib and its surroundings are threatened with displacement into the unknown as a result of air strikes targeting the city since the morning, coinciding with the inability to provide shelter for any new displacement movement region pic.twitter.com/rqBAfeZzYR
— Response Coordination Group (@group_response) February 25, 2020
The Syrian government and its ally Russia are deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said last week.
“No shelter is now safe. And as the government offensive continues and people are forced into smaller and smaller pockets, I fear even more people will be killed,” Bachelet said.
Regime forces backed by allies Iran and Russia have been trying to capture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighbouring Idlib province, a stronghold of opposition forces in the war-torn country.
Besides a refugee crisis, their advances have also affected cooperation between Moscow and Ankara, which sent its troops to Idlib as part of the 2017 Astana and 2018 Sochi accords that sought de-escalation.
However, regime forces and their allies continue to violate the ceasefire.
So far this month, artillery fire by regime troops has killed 16 Turkish military personnel and one civilian contractor, Reuters reported.
While Ankara and Moscow continue their negotiations over Idlib, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week said Turkey’s military will drive back Syrian forces if they do not withdraw from the northwestern region.