2.5 million Syrians surrounded by fighting and airstrikes in Idlib

By Middle East Affairs

The United Nations announced on Monday that 2.5 million Syrian civilians were in danger as fighting and air strikes attacks escalate in rebel-held Idlib province leaving them “no place else to go” within the war-torn country.

The U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator Panos Moumtzis called on major powers to help settle on an end to the war so further bloodshed could be spared in Idlib.

The Idlib province which borders Turkey has become “dumping ground” for Syrians and fighters that have been forced to relocate from other areas which the opposition controls.


Panos Moumtzis, United Nations humanitarian coordinator on the Syria crisis attends a news conference on the latest developments regarding humanitarian access in Syria, in Geneva, Switzerland June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Moumtzis said, “With this escalation, this deterioration, we worry really about seeing 2-1/2 million people becoming displaced more and more towards the border of Turkey if this is to continue.”

“We also worry that for the people of Idlib, there is no other Idlib to take them out to, really this is the last location,” the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator said.

He also referenced an air strike on Sunday that hit a children’s hospital and killed 11 civilians.

Previously on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the highest death toll from a single attack in Syria this year, air strikes on a village in the Idlib providence killed at least 44 people.

The human rights group said that the air attacks could have potentially been Russia’s, as the country is a known ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s, who has continued the war for seven years, despite rebel groups and a faction of the country wishing to see him step down.

The U.N. coordinator said that major battle between opposing sides in Idlib could be far more complicated and brutal than previous battles in eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta. Both were controlled by rebel areas but surrendered and allowed people to evacuate in 2016 and 2018 after Russian stepped up their funding and fighters and blasted the towns.

Moumtzis said, “We cannot see a military solution, it cannot take place. Our worry is that with the Idlib situation we may have not (yet) seen the worst in Syria.”

Idlib is already a highly dangerous area for civilians to be in as ISIS and other militant groups reside in the providence as well making for the potential of a “highly explosive” situation.

He mentioned Turkey, Russia, and Iran, who have engaged in peace talks, and said, “This is a de-escalation area, we hope the Astana guarantors, everybody will do everything to ensure a calming down of the situation.”

Moumtzis said, “The message of today is that the emergency not over. We still see massive displacement, we still see massive humanitarian needs, and have huge concerns on the protection of civilians.”

On Sunday, U.N. aid workers were unable to accompany an aid convey meant to help Syrians in Douma, in the enclave of eastern Ghouta outside Damascus on Sunday as the government did not allow to continue ahead. The U.N. says that their workers reaching the area is vital.

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