Thousands more flee Idlib City as Russian bombardment intensifies

Thousands more flee Idlib City as Russian bombardment intensifies
The Syrian regime offensive on Idlib has forces tens of thousands to flee their homes.
3 min read
09 January, 2020
Idlib has been hit by heavy rain [Getty]
Thousands more Syrians have been forced to leave their homes in Idlib city, as a Russian-led bombardment of the provincial capital intensifies.

At least 20,000 civilians have fled Idlib City towards the Turkish border in recent days, the Response Coordination Group told Anadolu news agency on Tuesday, as a major humanitarian crisis unfolds in the besieged opposition province.

It follows the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians over the past few month due to heavy Russian bombing and a regime advance on the ground in the south of Idlib province.

The city of Maarat Al-Numan and surrounding villages have been emptied of its inhabitants due to the offensive.

Aid groups and NGOs have struggled to cope with the huge numbers of refugees, who have mostly settled in northern Idlib, along the closed Turkish border.

Refugee camps are already at full capacity with newly displaced families forced to find shelter in olive groves, cellars and in fields.

The UN said the latest wave of refugees "compounds an already dire situation", in a province that is home to around 4 million people - around half of them internally-displaced persons.

"Every day we receive more disturbing reports of families caught up in the violence, seeking refuge and access to essential services in overcrowded camps and urban areas," said Mark Cutts from the UN.

At least 300,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes since the regime and Russia intensified their assault on Idlib in mid-December.

Another 400,000 people were displaced and at least 1,300 were killed in an escalation of violence against civilians between May and August, the UN added.

Over the last eight months, between 700,000 and a million have been made homeless due to the bombardments. Idlib has been hit with heavy rain and freezing winter temperatures, threatening the lives of children, elderly and others with insufficient shelter and unable to find fuel to stay warm.

The Russian bombardment has also targeted dozens of hospitals and clinics, adding to the misery civilians face and leading to a medical crisis.

"More than 250 artillery shells and missiles targeted a hospital in #MaaratalNuman City and civilian houses in 16 cities #Idlib, #Aleppo and #Hama on January 8, without recording any casualties. One person was injured by the YPG shelling on the north of Aleppo," the civil rescue group tweeted. 

The Syria war began after anti-government protests were brutally suppressed by regime forces, sparking a wider rebellion.

Since then, at least 500,000 people have been killed, the majority believed to be civilian deaths caused by regime and Russian airstrikes.

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