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No safe spaces in Idlib anymore, says UN

Local | 2020-02-04 20:06:33
No safe spaces in Idlib anymore, says UN
The United Nations says it has received “alarming messages” from its staff in Idlib, Syria, as regime attacks continue unabated in the country’s northwest.

“There are no safe spaces in Idlib; bombs are falling anywhere and everywhere. Even those fleeing the frontlines are not safe and there is a sea of people moving in all directions,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

There have been continuous air strikes and shelling in the two months since Dec. 1, and more than 520,000 people were displaced over this period, he told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.

“We are shocked and horrified at the continued military onslaught in northwest Syria where 3 million civilians are trapped in a war zone. We have recorded more than 1,500 civilian deaths since December,” said the UN official.

He said most of the displaced people are women, children and the elderly, and providing them shelter is proving more difficult by the day.

“The biggest challenge right now is ensuring shelter for the thousands of displaced people. They are either cramped into schools and mosques, or living in tents exposed to wind, rain, and the freezing weather,” said Laerke.

He said humanitarian workers are toiling non-stop to help everyone in need “but the scale of the crisis is overwhelming and aid is not enough”.

Jenifer Fenton, a spokeswoman for the UN Special Envoy for Syria, echoed the OCHA’s concerns. “The UN special envoy is alarmed by the continued and further escalation of violence in Syria’s northwest. The consequences are devastating; the price that the civilian population is paying is too high,” she said at the same briefing.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official expressed concern about the impact of the bombing on health facilities.

“There have been two attacks on medical facilities in northwest Syria recently in which 10 lives were lost and 30 people suffered injuries,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

A number of health facilities, including primary health centers, mobile clinics, and specialized units, have ceased operations due to the incessant fighting, he said.

The Syrian regime’s recent military offensive has given rise to fears of a looming humanitarian crisis and refugee influx in Europe.

Located in the country’s northwest, Idlib province has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-regime groups since the outbreak of a civil war in 2011.

It is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces across the war-weary country.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrians have moved to areas near the Turkish border due to intense attacks in recent months.

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