UN: Syria experiencing 'largest escalation of violence in four years'

UN: Syria experiencing 'largest escalation of violence in four years'
The report, which is due to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 March, details an uptick in violence over the last six months.
2 min read
13 March, 2024
The report highlights violence in Syria is at its worst since 2020 [Photo by Izettin Kasim/Anadolu via Getty Images]

A new UN report has warned that in the last six months violence across Syria has been at its worst since 2020.

The report, released by the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry on Monday, details how violence has proliferated across the country, including an uptick in clashes between armed groups, as well as internal repression by the Assad regime against political activity.

According to Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN commission: "Since October, Syria has seen the largest escalation in fighting in four years. With the region in turmoil, a determined international effort to contain fighting on Syrian soil is imperative."

"Syria, too, desperately needs a ceasefire," he added. 

The report noted a number of developments that had contributed to a rise in violence across the country, including fighting between the regime and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib following a strike on Homs Military Academy in October.

The report also included an escalation in Turkish operations against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following a terrorist attack in Ankara by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in October, as well as fighting between the SDF and the Deir az-Zour Military Council (DMC) in August.

As well as internal fighting, Syria has also been affected by the spillover from Israel's war on Gaza which began on 7 October, with the Israeli air force conducting at least 22 airstrikes by 31 December. Iraqi militias have also attacked US sites in Syria at least 83 times during the same period.

"The Syrian people cannot sustain any further intensification of this devastating, protracted war," Pinheiro said, noting that around 90 percent of the population live in poverty, with the report noting an increase in the use of predatory practices against civilians.

These practices occur amidst continued repression and political turmoil in the country, including in Syrian regime territory, where infighting has occurred within the regime security apparatus and anti-government protests in Suweida and Daraa have been ongoing.

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Instances of repression were also highlighted in areas held by HTS and the Syrian National Army, with HTS clamping down on civil society organisations and conducting arbitrary arrests and executions in secret.

UN commissioner Hanny Megally said of the situation that "it should be no surprise that the number of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe last October reached the highest level in seven years."

The report is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 March, 13 years after the first anti-government protests broke out in Syria.