Russian and Syrian forces attack rebels in northern Syria
Russian and Syrian forces have stepped up air strikes on rebel-held areas in northern Hama and Idlib.
Many of the towns and villages targeted fall within a buffer zone agreed last September between Russia and Turkey as part of a deal which averted a major offensive in the area. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes have been the most intense since the agreement was signed.
Panos Moumtzis, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator, told Reuters yesterday: “The barrel bombing is the worst we have seen for at least 15 months. We have information that educational facilities, health facilities and residential areas are being bombed by helicopters and planes.”
On Wednesday, David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said: “Since February, over 138,500 women, children and men have been displaced from northern Hama and southern Idlib. Between 1 and 28 April, its estimated more than 32,500 individuals have moved to different communities in Aleppo, Idlib and Hama governorates.”
Syrian state media has blamed rebels for the large scale displacement and said regime forces have targeted “terrorist groups,” including al Qaeda-inspired groups. These groups have recently intensified their attempts to attack Russia’s main air base near the Syrian Mediterranean coast, but these attempts were unsuccessful.
Envoys from the US, UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, will meet in Geneva today to try to revive the so-called ‘Small Group on Syria’. Pedersen will then hold a meeting later in May involving Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Earlier this week, Pedersen told the UN Security Council: “I remain convinced that key international players agree on far more than it might seem. All understand the need for international co-operation in Syria. I will continue to use my good offices to help the key players with influence to join in one active conversation, to provide common support to a Syrian-led and owned process under UN facilitation.”