The Syrian regime and Russia have begun an all-out offensive on northwest Syria, jeopardising the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. Since 29 April, 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes with 20 civilians being killed on 7 May alone. The UN has previously warned that an assault on Idlib could cause “the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century.”
Using internationally prohibited weapons including cluster munitions and barrel bombs, the regime and Russia have hit towns and cities across the northwest, killing 364 people since February. In the past 10 days, 12 medical facilities have been deliberately bombed out of service—a practice the regime used before major offensives in Aleppo in late 2016 and in Eastern Ghouta in early 2018 to ensure the injured had nowhere to go.
The White Helmets have also been targeted by the regime and Russia, which have bombed three of their centres out of service and destroyed valuable equipment, including ambulances and machinery to lift rubble. Three members of the search and rescue organisation have died as a result of the bombing but volunteers continue to rush to the site of attacks since there is no one else to help civilians.
At particular risk are 350,000 people living in displacement camps who have no protection from the bombs. People who have recently fled their homes are living without shelter on land near the Turkish border, which Ankara has shut to prevent a refugee influx. As a result, civilians are trapped in the region, unable to flee the continuous airstrikes.
“The situation in Idlib is one of abject horror that recalls past atrocities in Ghouta, Homs and Aleppo,” says Laila Kiki* Executive Director of the Syria Campaign. “Russia and Turkey agreed last year to a demilitarised zone in Idlib to protect civilians but today we see Russia killing them and Turkey barring them. Both countries must urgently honour their commitment to the demilitarised zone and stop the bloodshed. International governments must push for an end to the regime and Russia’s bombing. If the attacks are allowed to continue, the end result is unimaginable.”
*Laila Kiki is a pseudonym used for security reasons