Over 39,000 flee northwest Syria as Assad pushes closer to Idlib

Over 39,000 flee northwest Syria as Assad pushes closer to Idlib

Over 39,000 flee northwest Syria as Assad pushes closer to Idlib

Syrian refugees head northwest through the town of Hazano in Idlib province as the flee renewed fighting on Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo)

A renewed drive by Bashar al-Assad regime to recapture rebel-held territory in Syria's northwest sparked a fresh exodus of many thousands of civilians toward Turkey's border on Jan. 28 amid heavy airstrikes, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 28.

The attacks of the Assad regime, Russia and Iran-backed terrorist groups in residential areas east and south of Aleppo province continue to displace thousands of Syrians.

As many as 39,377 more civilians have fled their homes in Syria's northwestern Idlib de-escalation zone over the last 24 hours.

Mohammad Hallaj, director of Syria's Response Coordination Group, told Anadolu Agency that the civilians left their homes in Idlib province's Saraqib city, Ariha town and Mt. Zawiya area.

According to the figures Anadolu Agency provided, the number of people displaced from Idlib and Aleppo since November 2019 has mounted to 541,000.

The majority of the displaced people arrived at the camps near the Turkish border while some others took refuge in the areas cleared of terror elements following Turkey's military operations.

Due to the rising displaced population, the tent camps in Idlib fail to meet the needs of war-weary Syrians as there is not enough space to set up more tents. Thousands of families are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Regime forces capture towns in advance on Idlib

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Assad's forces had since Jan. 24 wrestled control of 22 towns and had cut through a strategic highway in Idlib that links the capital Damascus to Aleppo in northern Syria, Reuters reported on Jan. 27.

It said the Syrian army had encircled and was close to capturing Maarat al-Numan, an urban center 33 km (20 miles) south of Idlib city. This would mark a significant advance for Assad's drive to take back all of Syria.

A rescue worker who posted a video from Maarat al-Numan said the city had been devastated by an assault of barrel bombs, missiles and shelling in recent days that had laid waste to scores of homes and vital infrastructure.

"Marat al-Numan is completely destroyed and its population has been displaced and is living in uncertainty," Reuters cited an anonymous civil defense force worker as saying.

Syrian regime forces backed by Russian warplanes besieged Maarat al-Numan city and over a dozen villages in its outskirts on Jan. 28, according to Anadolu Agency.

Regime forces now control the villages of al-Hamidiyya, Bseideh, Kafar Basin, Babolin, al-Salihiya, Dar al-Salam, Deir al-Gharbi, Tekad, Sehyan, Maar Hattat, Babeela, Kahira, Maasaran, Dana and Kafar Roma.

Moscow and Damascus say they are fighting jihadist militants that have stepped up attacks on civilians in Aleppo, but rights groups and rescue workers say airstrikes have demolished hospitals, schools, and other civilian areas.

The renewed fighting comes despite a Jan. 12 ceasefire deal between Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides of the conflict.

Fouad Sayed Issa, an aid worker with the Violet Organisation in northern Syria, said Assad's latest campaign has frightened Syrians in the rebel enclave who fear death or arrest if their towns are recaptured.

"Over the past few days we have seen thousands of new internally displaced persons and we are talking here at the very least about 50,000 over the past four days," said Issa.

The Observatory estimated that about 120,000 people had fled from the countryside around Aleppo and Idlib over the past 12 days. Aid workers said most have moved to relatively safer parts of northern Syria near the Turkish frontier.