‘Nowhere is safe’: UN warns of immediate threat of Syria escalation

‘Nowhere is safe’: UN warns of immediate threat of Syria escalation

Hundreds of countless Syrians fleeing a fierce federal government push are being squeezed into ever-smaller areas near Turkey’s border under horrendous conditions, including below-freezing temperature levels that are killing babies and children, the United Nations humanitarian chief has actually warned.

Dealing With the UN Security Council, Mark Lowcock stated on Wednesday the “unfolding humanitarian disaster” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province had overwhelmed efforts to deliver and provide aid.

Almost 900,000 people, more than half of whom are kids, have actually left their homes since December 1, when Russian-backed Syrian government forces pressed ahead with a military offensive to press out opposition fighters from their last fortress in the country.


” They are moving into significantly crowded locations they believe will be safer,” Lowcock stated.

” But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”

Displaced Syrians arrive to Deir al-Ballut camp in Afrin's countryside, along the border with Turkey, on February 19, 2020. (Photo by Rami al SAYED / AFP)

Displaced Syrians arrive to Deir al-Ballut camp in Afrin’s countryside, along the border with Turkey [ Rami al Sayed/AFP]

‘ Catastrophic human suffering’

Lowcock said hostilities are now all around locations densely populated with “horrified” people who have actually run away “on foot or on the backs of trucks”. They are now in Dana and Sarmada, in the instructions of the shut Bab al-Hawa border crossing with neighbouring Turkey, in what has been the greatest wave of displacement considering that the start of the war almost 9 years ago.

Almost 300 civilians have been killed in attacks this year in the northwest region, with 93 percent of the deaths caused by Syrian and Russian forces, according to the UN.

Earlier on Wednesday, UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen echoed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres‘ alarm at the rapid degeneration of the humanitarian scenario “and the tragic suffering of civilians”.

” Hostilities are now approaching largely populated areas such as Idlib city and Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which has among the greatest concentration of displaced civilians in northwest Syria and likewise functions as a humanitarian lifeline,” he stated.

Pedersen cautioned, “The capacity for further mass displacement and even more devastating human suffering is apparent, as an increasing variety of people are hemmed into an ever-shrinking area.”

He stated Russia and Turkey, as sponsors of a delicate ceasefire in Idlib, “can and need to play an essential function in discovering a method to deescalate the situation now”, though meetings between delegations of the two countries in Ankara, Munich and Moscow in recent days and contacts in between the two presidents have actually not produced outcomes.

” To the contrary, public declarations from various quarters, Syrian and worldwide, recommend an impending risk of additional escalation,” Pedersen said.

Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from the UN head office in New York, stated the declarations at the Security Council reflected an “exceedingly bleak” scenario unfolding on the ground in northwest Syria.

” What we heard today is something of deep gloom and of the greatest concern for the Security Council,” he said.

An aerial view taken on February 19, 2020 shows a man riding his motorcycle past destroyed buildings in the Syrian town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib. (Photo by Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

A guy riding his motorcycle past destroyed structures in the Syrian town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

Erdogan: Idlib operation ‘imminent’

The council’s meeting comes as Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict but have actually teamed up towards what they say is a political service to the almost nine-year war, exchanged warnings.

” An operation in Idlib looms,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party’s lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday. “We are counting down, we are making our last warnings”.

Ankara, which supports numerous rebel groups in northwest Syria, has been outraged considering that recent Syrian government attacks in Idlib province killed 13 Turkish military workers in two weeks. It is likewise excited to prevent another flood of refugees into its area adding to the 3.6 million Syrians it currently hosts.

Reacting to Erdogan’s comments, Russia – the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – said any operation versus Syrian forces in Idlib would be the “worst circumstance”.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Hatay at the Turkey-Syria border, stated both sides “haven’t been able to make an advancement” in talks.

He added that next week would be “essential” in figuring out whether Ankara will step up its operations in Idlib.

Erdogan has actually repeatedly said Syrian government forces in Idlib should draw back behind a line of Turkish observation posts by the end of February, alerting that if they did not do so, Ankara would drive them back.

Turkey has actually set up 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a 2018 handle Russia.

Syrian troops have reconquered swaths of Idlib and retaken the tactical M5 highway connecting the nation’s four biggest cities, along with the whole surroundings of Aleppo city for the first time since 2012.

In rare remarks previously this week, al-Assad pledged to continue the offensive, stating the war was not yet over however a “complete triumph” remained in sight. Damascus and Moscow keep the military operation in Idlib is targeted at eliminating “terrorists” from the area.

A Turkish military truck drives through the village of Qah in Syria's Idlib province heading towards the western countryside of Aleppo province on February 19, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad al-ATRASH / AFP)

A Turkish military truck in the town of Qah in Syria’s Idlib province heading towards the western countryside of Aleppo [Ahmad al-Atrash/AFP]

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