Attacks force 215,000 to flee Idlib in 2 months
Violating the cease-fire agreement between Turkey and Russia, the intense attack of the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran backed-groups in Idlib have forced no few than 215,000 civilians to flee the Syrian region since November.
On Dec. 20, the Assad regime and its allies launched a military campaign mainly in the cities of Maarat Al-Numan and Saraqib as well as the surrounding rural areas, capturing 35 residential areas.
In the past two days, some 10,000 civilians out of 215,000 fled as a result of the attacks, Mohammad Halaj, the head of Syria’s Response Coordination Group, said on Dec. 24.
If violence against the people of Idlib does not end, the number of people, who have to leave Syria, will surge, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Dec. 23, stressing the severity of the imminent humanitarian catastrophe.
The majority of people who had to flee the violence went to camps in Atmah, Qah, Deir Hassan and Kafr Lusin, areas liberated by the Turkish military operations, while others headed to olive grove farms near the Turkish border.
Families need urgent basic supplies such as shelters, blankets, and beds in the areas where they took shelter, according to Anadolu Agency reporters on the ground.
According to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Idlib province is home to around 3 million civilians, 75% of whom are women and children.
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in over 3.6 million Syrians who fled their country, making Turkey the world’s top refugee-hosting country.
Humanitarian catastrophe looms
Since the offensive began last week, the regime and its allies have launched a military campaign mainly in the cities of Maarat Al-Numan and Saraqib as well as the surrounding rural areas.
The offensive has targeted hospitals, schools, mosques, and houses to force civilians out of the cities and keep them away from their homes, according to Syria's Response Coordination Group.
Despite a de-escalation zone in the region, the regime and its allies have captured 26 villages.
On Dec. 23, the Assad regime and its allied forces took control of 12 villages in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
The seized villages are Al-Modairesa, Abu Sharji, Al-Qarati, Karsatna, Al-Halba, Al-Tah, Al-Meisruneh, Mazraat Al-Khalifa, Tahtaya, Abu Makki, Al-Saqia and Al-Sarman.
On Dec. 22, the Assad regime and its allies captured the villages of Rajm Al-Qot, Al-Heraki, Al-Mentar, Sahal, Al-Sarj and Al-Sayyadi, all of which administratively belong to Maarat Al-Numan.
On Dec. 21, the captured villages were Tal Al-Sheikh, Farja, Breisah, Rabia, Oraiba, Shaara and Abu Habba, while on Friday, Umm Jalal and Umm Tinah were seized.
The current movements of Assad regime forces are close to Turkey's observation points, including one located some 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) east of Maarat Al-Numan in the southeastern countryside of Idlib province.
According to the Syrian armed opposition, the observation points located in Al-Surman village near Maarat Al-Numan could be subject to encirclement if the regime expands its offensive.
In a press conference Dec. 23, the coalition's vice president, Oqab Yahya, said the fierce attacks come as part of a major project aiming "to displace more than a million Syrian civilians."
The offensive deliberately destroys infrastructure and facilities to increase hardships and diminish the basic living needs of locals to discourage them from remaining in the region.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Since then, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the zone as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
If aggression by the regime and its allies continues, Turkey and Europe will face the risk of another refugee influx.
Over a million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border following the intense attacks.
Since the eruption of Syria’s bloody civil war in 2011, Turkey has taken in over 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.
Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.