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12,000 people flee Idlib amid regime, Russian attacks

Local | 2019-12-18 21:18:00
12,000 people flee Idlib amid regime, Russian attacks
Fleeing attacks by the al-Assad regime and its allies, at least 12,000 civilians have been forced to abandon what is supposed to be a cease-fire zone in northwestern Syria and headed for the Turkish border.

Mohamed al-Hallaj, director of the Response Coordinators Team, told Anadolu Agency that the regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed foreign terror groups have struck civilian settlements in the past 24 hours.

The southern Marratinnuman district, located east of Idlib city, faced the highest migration rates, and fleeing families are in dire need of items such as shelter, blankets, beds and tents, he added.

A total of 110,000 civilians have been forced to leave Idlib since November due to intensifying attacks, Al-Hallaj underlined.

“Civilians, most of them children and women, look for shelter under olive trees,” he said.

He argued that the regime intentionally hits schools, hospitals, mosques, and civil defense centers in order to prevent civilians from returning home.   

Aggression in December alone  

Dec. 2: Airstrikes hit two marketplaces in Idlib, leaving a total of 14 civilians killed.

Dec. 7: Regime and Russian fighter jets strike Idlib again, at least 19 civilians killed.

Dec. 15: One child killed and seven people wounded in regime airstrikes.

Dec. 16: Russian airstrikes claim lives of five civilians in Idlib, including three children and two women.

According to the local administration, Idlib is home to some 2.4 million locals and 1.3 million internally displaced persons. If aggression by the regime and its allies continues, both Turkey and the European continent face the risk of another refugee influx.

 On Tuesday, at least 25 civilians, including several children, have been killed in Idlib by Russian and regime air raids.

The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said the attacks on Tuesday targeted a dozen towns and villages in Maaret al-Numaan district, Idlib province, causing civilians to flee en masse towards internally displaced people (IDP) camps near the Turkish border.

 Ahmed Sheikho, a spokesperson for the Civil Defence, told Al Jazeera that nine people were killed in the town of Tal Mannis, six were killed in Bidama and five others were killed in Maasaran. One person was killed in al-Kanayes, while another person was killed in Maar Shamshah, he added.

Among those who lost their lives in Bidama were a White Helmets volunteer's wife and three children, Sheikho said.

A market in the rural town of Maasaran was also bombed, according to Sheikho, who said that dozens of people were wounded across the region in the attacks and that rescue operations were ongoing on Tuesday evening.

In April, Syrian regime forces and their allies launched a ground and aerial offensive on northwest Syria, the last rebel-held territory in the country. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the hostilities, according to the United Nations, while hundreds of thousands more have been displaced since the escalation began.

Russia, which backs Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, a longtime supporter of opposition factions, cosponsored a de-escalation agreement for northwest Syria earlier this year that has since faltered.

 Russian-backed forces have continued air raids on populated areas to wear down rebel groups that have, so far, repelled regime attempts to seize back terrain.

Syrian regime and Russian forces attacked two IDP camps on Monday, according to the White Helmets.

The regime troops on the offensive have recently captured rebel-held areas in the adjoining Hama province, as well as the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib.

They are now seemingly pushing north, towards Maaret al-Numan, which sits on the M5 highway linking Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo.

 One of White Helmets workers lost his life along with his wife and his three children in the air strikes.
 
The regime army has been pressing to take a strategic territory located between Idlib and Latakia province to cut the main supply route and to weaken the unprecedented resistance by rebels.

Russia claims that rebels in Idlib battlefronts have killed 1500 Syrian troops and allied militants. 

The Idlib region, home to around three million people including many displaced by Syria's eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist alliance also controls parts of neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces where battles with regime forces have also recently taken place.
 
Al-Assad, who now controls around 60 percent of the country, has vowed to reclaim the rest, including Idlib and small pockets in Latakia. 

Eight years of war in Syria have killed 560,000 people and driven half the pre-war population of 22 million from their homes, including more than 6 million as refugees to neighboring countries. Zaman Al Wasl, Agencies

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