Nearly 100,000 displaced by Syrian regime's Idlib offensive
Around 100,000 civilians have been displaced since early December in north-western Syria as the regime steps up military operations to recapture the Idlib province from rebels.
Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russia, launched an offensive at the end of 2017 to capture Idlib province, the last remaining area still fully outside of the regime's control.
Idlib province is almost entirely controlled by a group known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), consisting mostly of fighters from a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The fighting has seen 99,569 civilians flee southern Idlib as well as north and north-eastern parts of neighbouring Hama province between 1 December and 9 January, said the UN's humanitarian coordination office UNOCHA.
"Heavy bombardment on many communities in southern and south-eastern rural Idlib continued unabated, causing casualties and displacement among civilians and destruction of vital infrastructure," UNOCHA said in a statement.
The UN agency said the situation in Idlib was "extremely chaotic" with newly displaced people reportedly scattered across open areas.
"Due to the large numbers of people moving, many are left with no shelter, which could expose them to various risks, especially as the winter temperatures continue to drop," it added.
Ninety-six civilians, including 27 children, have been killed in Syrian or Russian airstrikes on Idlib province since the start of the offensive, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The regime's goal is to retake the southeast of Idlib province in order to secure a route between Damascus and second city Aleppo, both under its control, according to the Observatory.
Its forces are now close to the military air base of Abu Duhur, their next target, the war monitor said.
Turkey condemns Idlib offensive
Earlier on Wednesday Turkey called on Iran and Russia to pressure the Syrian regime to halt its Idlib offensive, saying it violated a joint accord which saw the three countries establish a "de-escalation zone" in the province.
"Iran and Russia need to carry out their responsibilities. If you are guarantors, which you are, stop the regime," Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu news agency in an interview broadcast on Turkish television channels.
Turkey, a supporter of the rebels, has deployed military observers in Idlib as part of a de-escalation deal with Iran and Russia but that has not stopped fighting on the ground or Russian airstrikes.In the past two months a Russian air offensive has helped capture 80 towns and villages in the nearby Hama province and breached Idlib for the first time since mid-2015.