UN: 140,000 displaced in 3 days amid Syrian offensive

Friday, February 14, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

AP

Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey, Thursday.

BEIRUT (AP) — Over 140,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three days alone by violence in the country’s northwest, bringing the total of those uprooted in a Syrian government offensive against the last opposition stronghold to over 800,000, the United Nations said Thursday. 

The U.N. said at least 60% of the more than 800,000 displaced since Dec. 1 are children. The humanitarian crisis in the already overcrowded opposition-held enclave is compounded by freezing weather conditions, and existing severe needs.

The government offensive, backed by Russia, has intensified and expanded to include southern and eastern Idlib province as well as southern and western Aleppo, an area home to an estimated 4 million people. Most have already been displaced from other parts of Syria because of the ongoing conflict. 

The humanitarian situation for people in northwest Syria is “at the most critical points,” the U.N. said, adding that the massive scale of human displacement over such a short period of time has increased needs exponentially. 

David Swanson, U.N. regional spokesperson for the crisis in Syria, said more resources, including funding, are immediately needed to save lives and alleviate suffering, predicting the 800,000 figure will rise in the coming days as the government offensive continues. 

“This level of displacement couldn’t come at a worse time as more and more people are squeezed into an increasingly smaller area of land with little more than the clothes on their back,” he said, describing people fleeing in the middle of the night to avoid detection in temperatures below zero.

“The crisis is deepening by the minute, but the international community remains indifferent,” Swanson added.

Government forces, with Russian support, have focused their offensive on areas along a strategic highway that runs through opposition territory and connects the country’s south to the north. The M5 highway, now secured by Syrian troops, had been out of government control since 2012 and accessing it was part of a now failed 2018 cease-fire agreement. Calls for a cease-fire have failed to stop the violence. 

On Thursday, government troops continued to advance through the Aleppo countryside to secure their hold on the highway. Most of the villages and towns that sit alongside the highway are now empty, while hundreds of thousands are squeezing into displacement camps, open fields and tents to move away from the front lines. 

Category: