One million prepare to flee Idlib city and surrounding areas amidst an “unprecedented” crisis
More than one million civilians from Idlib city and the surrounding areas face the terrifying threat of Assad and Putin’s bombs as regime troops moved within nine kilometres of the symbolic and densely-populated city.
Since the beginning of December, close to half a million people have fled their homes in northwest Syria, leaving some towns almost empty of their residents. More than 1.5 million have been displaced since the beginning of the offensive in April last year, forced to flee to overcrowded camps and makeshift shelters across a shrinking geographic area between the Turkish border and the front line.
In the past 48 hours, three hospitals have been bombed by Russian warplanes – the Public Health Centre in Sarmin, Sarmin Hospital, and al-Nour hospital in Taftanaz – adding to the 53 hospitals forced to suspend services since the beginning of the year. In 2020 so far 241 civilians have been killed, including 71 children – more than two children killed every day. The White Helmets have rescued 592 people from the rubble of destroyed buildings this year alone.
Journalist Hiba Barakat, herself displaced from western Aleppo two weeks ago, said:
“Thousands of civilians have been being displaced since last week until this morning, fleeing on the main highway of Idlib. The crowds we’re seeing are unprecedented. Most of the displaced are wandering with nowhere to take shelter in due to over crowded areas by the Syrian-Turkish borders. They are escaping the brutal bombardment on their homes and towns in Idlib and Aleppo countryside.”
The high cost of fuel makes leaving by car an unaffordable option for many fleeing Assad’s bombs and volunteers, such as the White Helmets, are helping families by providing vehicles for evacuation.
As the regime approaches the strategic town of Saraqeb on the major M5 highway, it yesterday started blocking some civilians as they tried to move north despite claims of three “humanitarian corridors” meant to provide safe passage for those fleeing bombardment.
Riyad Hussein, a journalist in Idlib said:
“People have lost faith in the international community watching in shameful silence. The bombardment is getting more intense everyday. The so-called humanitarian corridors that the regime claims to have opened, are on the frontlines being bombed heavily.”
Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign said:
“Every day the people of Idlib wake to a new nightmare. We keep thinking the killing can’t get any worse but the coming days risk absolute catastrophe. There is nowhere for one million people in Idlib City to go. Whole families are being bombed in their cars as they flee in search of safety – nowhere is safe. The camps are beyond breaking point and provide no shelter for families in need of help.
“This is the moment the world has to wake from its stupor and do something to protect the millions of peaceful civilians who are just trying to save their children from being targeted by illegal weapons. If world leaders cannot stop the bombs, Turkey must open its borders and allow safe passage to those fleeing for their lives.”
In utter despair at the inaction of the international community, a coalition of humanitarian groups on the ground has issued a blank statement explaining “no words do justice” to the suffering of civilians.
There are ways to help. Find five things you can do to help Idlib here