Idlib, situated near the border between Syria and Turkey, was subject to 200 air-strikes in three days at the end of January, presenting huge implications to civilians. Fighting in the Northern province of Syria, the last stronghold of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, has escalated in the last few weeks as the Syrian government have pressed on the offensive.
The air-strikes were fired by the Syrian government and it’s ally Russia, who have since denied its forces were involved in the strikes.
On Wednesday 29 January, soldiers captured the strategically important town of Maarat al-Numan, which straddles a highway linking the capital Damascus with Aleppo. Now they have pushed further north towards Ariha, which is situated in the province of Idlib. In one of the latest raids, 11 civilians including a child were killed near a bakery and a clinic in the town of Ariha. Complications have arisen as the Syrian government presses forward, meaning around 700,000 already displaced civilians move closer to the Turkish border as they flee the intensifying situation in Idlib.
James Jeffrey, the US special envoy in Syria, stated that such displacement could, “create an international crisis.”
“Every single day there is bombing.” An English teacher in the east of the opposition territory told the BBC. “If a day passes without us hearing any missiles, any aircraft, any warplanes, we are afraid that they are preparing for something bigger than this.”
The UN has stated that around 390,000 civilians – around 80% of which are women and children – have fled their homes since 1 December. An additional 400,000 people were displaced due to this conflict between April and August of 2019. The latest unsettlement in Syria is worsening the shortage of shelter and accommodation and thousands of families are reportedly living in public buildings, schools and Mosques. Hundreds more are sheltering in unfinished houses, shops, and other sub-standard buildings. Many others are taking refuge in open spaces including public spaces, with no access to basic services. In extreme winter weather, flooding and freezing temperatures have exacerbated the conditions on the ground.
It is likely the death toll of 11 in this situation will increase as tensions continue to rise in Syria and innocent civilians get caught in the crossfire.