Thousands flee as regime assault on northwest Syria continues
For almost two weeks, thousands of Syrians from the country’s northwestern provinces of Idlib and Hama have been fleeing fierce and fatal land and air assaults by the Syrian regime.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 300 people have been killed since the end of April.
The bombings have forced more than a dozen humanitarian agencies to suspend their work.
From the air, Russia is supporting regime forces on the ground where the battle against rebels has expanded.
Moscow says the targets are terrorist groups, but thousands of civilians are being killed in the crossfire.
The provinces of Idlib and Hama are the main targets of regime attacks.
Over the past few years, Idlib is where many Syrians fled to escape fighting in other parts of the country.
Violation of de-escalation deal
Eight months ago, Ankara and Moscow agreed to make Idlib a de-escalation zone, but more than 100 civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the past two weeks.
Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad has sworn to take back every inch of Syria and the enclave including Idlib is the last big bastion of the rebellion that flared against him 2011.
Syrian activist Lina Shami says Bashar al Assad’s regime has no intention of sticking to the ceasefire agreement in Idlib.
Turkey has now sent military reinforcements to its border with Syria.
On Friday, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the regime should end attacks and its forces must return to borders determined by Astana Agreement.
“We expect the Russian Federation to take effective and decisive measures to prevent these violations and attacks in the following period. Assad regime attempts to widen its control area in south of Idlib against the Astana agreement.”
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.
Last September, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Syria’s northern Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.
At least 565 civilians have been killed in attacks carried out by regime forces, Iran-backed terror groups and Russia in Idlib de-escalation zone since last September, according to a rights watchdog on Saturday.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said 163 minors and 105 women were among the victims.
Aid groups suspend aid
Meanwhile, UN-linked aid groups said they have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwest Syria, where intensified bombardment by the regime and Russia is jeopardising the safety of humanitarian workers.
“As of 8 May, at least 16 humanitarian partners have suspended their operations in areas impacted by conflict,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA said on Friday.
The World Food Programme said it has suspended “deliveries to about 47,000 people in towns and villages… (that) have come under bombardment”.
The uptick in air strikes and shelling on the region dominated by Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate has displaced 180,000 people between April 29 and May 9, OCHA said.
It has also affected 15 health facilities and 16 schools, it added. OCHA said five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have been reportedly killed due to air strikes and shelling.