21,000 Idlib civilians flee intensified attacks
Some 21,000 civilians have fled Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib to places near the Turkish border in the last 24 hours, amid heightened bombardments by the Syrian regime and Russia, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 27.
The attacks of Bashar al-Assad regime, Russia and Iran-backed terrorist groups in residential areas east and south of Aleppo province continue to displace thousands of Syrians.
Mohammad Hallaj, director of Syria's Response Coordination Group, told Anadolu Agency that the forced migration gained momentum in Eriha and Jabal Zawiya regions of Idlib due to intensified attacks.
The majority of the displaced people arrived at the camps near Turkish border while some others took refugee in the areas cleared of terror elements following Turkey's military operations.
According to the figures Anadolu Agency provided, the number of people displaced from Idlib and Aleppo since November 2019 has mounted to 502,000.
Nevertheless, the Idlib tent camps fail to meet the needs of displaced Syrians because of the increased number of displaced persons. Officials say the camps have neither enough space to set up more tents nor the necessary infrastructure.
Displaced families are in urgent need of shelters, tents, blankets and beds.
Regime advances towards key town
Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces were poised on Jan. 27 to soon enter Maaret al-Numan, a town of symbolic and strategic importance that is deserted after months of bombardment, located in the last opposition bastion.
Maaret al-Numan is a strategic prize lying on the M5 highway linking Damascus to Syria’s second city Aleppo, a main artery coveted by the regime.
It is also the second biggest city in the beleaguered northwestern province of Idlib, the last stronghold of anti-regime forces and home to some three million people -- half of them displaced by violence in other areas.
Damascus loyalists have since Jan. 24 seized around 14 towns and villages around the city, reaching its eastern outskirts, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Jan. 27.
They have also cut the M5 highway leading north from Maaret al Numan to Idlib city, according to the Observatory and the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.
“Maaret al-Numan is nearly besieged,” said Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman, explaining that regime forces were now stationed south, east and north of the city.
Russian and regime forces in Syria carried out new airstrikes in northwestern Idlib de-escalation zone, killing at least five civilians, according to a Syrian civil defense group.
The White Helmets civil defense group said the regime airstrikes killed three civilians -- including two in Bzabor village and one in Sarakib city.
The two other civilians were killed in Russian airstrikes in Shinan village, it added.
Pick-up trucks carrying entire families packed a road leading from Saraqib further north, towards the border with Turkey.
Since December 1, some 358,000 Syrians have been displaced from their homes in Idlib, most of them women and children, according to the United Nations.
The U.N. says an additional 38,000 people fled violence in neighboring western Aleppo between January 15 and 19.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
As a fresh move, Turkey announced on Jan. 10 that a new ceasefire in Idlib would start just after midnight on Jan. 12.
However, the regime and Iran-backed groups continued their ground attacks despite the fresh ceasefire.