Rebel-held Azaz hosts 1,000 Iraqi refugees fleeing IS

Rebel-held Azaz hosts 1,000 Iraqi refugees fleeing IS
Out of the frying pan? The northern Syrian city of Azaz is the new home of a thousand Iraqi refugees fleeing the Islamic State group.
2 min read
05 May, 2016
Azaz has hosted thousands of refugees from IS-held areas in Syria and Iraq [Getty]
Dozens of Iraqi families have arrived in opposition-controlled areas north of Aleppo seeking shelter from the Islamic State group, it has emerged.

"The town of Azaz has received around 1,000 Iraqis coming from IS-controlled areas in Iraq," media activist Mohammed al-Halabi told The New Arab.

"The exodus of families was caused by the increasing bombardment by the international coalition led by the US, as well as attacks carried out by IS."

Halabi added that Syrian families coming from the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and areas of the countryside east of Aleppo, also reached Azaz.

Families are sheltering in schools, mosques and government departments - as reception centres for refugees in the city are full.

The close proximity of the city to Turkey, seen as the gateway to Europe, is one prime reason why refugees are drawn to the city.

Displaced families will be housed in large tents, each designed to accommodate around a dozen families.

Halabi added that there remains a lack of equipment and aid to provide for the refugees, following the onslaught by militias and the Syrian regime on the Aleppo province.

A government offensive backed by Russian air power and regional militias earlier this year dislodged rebels from parts of Azaz and severed their supply corridor between the Turkish border and Aleppo.

The predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is fighting for autonomy in the multilayered conflict, also made ground against the rebels.

That left the rebels in Aleppo with just one narrow corridor to the outside world, through Idlib province.

Those in Azaz are now squeezed between IS to the east and the SDF to the west and south, while Turkey tightly restricts the flow of goods and people through the border.

Doctors Without Borders and other aid organisations warned earlier this month that the humanitarian situation for more than 100,000 people trapped in the Azaz rebel-held pocket remained critical.