First week of 2020: Syrian government bombs a kindergarten, hospital, schools and families as they flee


  • Humanitarian and human rights organisations warn more than 420,000 people are facing aerial attacks, many already fleeing their homes.


The crisis in northern Syria is “beyond catastrophic” as rescue workers and local organisations fear the ferocious bombing now targeting more than 420,000 people will push more families to flee their homes in the coming days and weeks.


The regime and Russia have intensified their attacks on civilians in Idlib and surrounding areas over the past eight months, emptying highly populated cities of Khan Sheikhoun, Jarjanaz, Kafranbel and most recently, Maarat al-Numan.


Since 1 January, three schools and a kindergarten have been targeted as children played and studied. The only hospital in southern Idlib was bombed out of service on 8 January and 26 people have been killed so far this year. People were targeted as they travelled on main roads out of towns and cities with 50 attacks on highways of displaced people since Christmas.


Since mid December more than 330,000 people were forced to flee southern Idlib, many to the areas now under bombardment – Ariha, Saraqeb and surrounding villages – but as the Syrian regime and its ally Russia drop barrel bombs and shell highly populated areas, it’s likely that 420,000 more will be displaced.


As many as 70,000 people have already fled Saraqeb and nearby villages over the past few weeks, while 20 percent of Ariha’s population have left, most after Sunday’s bombing a school, kindergarten and mosque.


Hanin al-Sayed, journalist and activist in northern Idlib said:

“Thousands of people fled and still fleeing the area. Children are being exposed to freezing cold and have been ripped away from their education. Their families can’t provide adequate shelters for them because of the already overwhelmed camps and housing in northern cities. Some took shelter in makeshift tents, mosques or schools that have no heating nor basic utilities.


“Hospitals have been bombed out of service and funding has been cut to vital lifesaving services. The hospitals that are still operating are crowded and unable to respond to large numbers of injured, especially with the rising cost of gasoline used to generate electricity.”


With displacement camps overwhelmed and humanitarian agencies underfunded and stretched to breaking point, people are being forced to shelter under olive trees and out in the open with no water or services. The humanitarian crisis is only set to get worse following Russia and China’s veto of a UN resolution renewal to allow lifesaving aid to cross from Turkey to northern Syria.


Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign said:

“The callous targeting of families as they flee for safety or children as they study in school is shameful and it’s a shame the whole world should share when our leaders appear unable or unwilling to protect people running for their lives. Assad and Putin must and can be stopped.”


“The situation in northwest Syria is beyond catastrophic with hundreds of thousands more packing the few belongings they have in preparation to flee the bombs yet again. Aid must be provided regardless of Russia’s efforts to stop it.”


From Idlib, Dr Zaher of MedGlobal said:

“What we are living through today in Syria is something that humanity has not witnessed in the last few decades, but the international community is slow to respond. The United Nations has been slow and its response has been inadequate.”