In less than a year since the signing of the Sochi agreement to decrease tension in northwestern Syria's Idlib, the internally displaced civilian count in the province has risen to 945,992 people, according to Syria Intervention Coordinators monitoring group. The continuation of the civilian-targeted violence by the Bashar Assad regime and Russia despite the terms of the agreement has been widely criticized by the international community and organizations.
The Sochi agreement, which was welcomed by international community and considered as a diplomatic success to maintain de-escalation in the region, was negotiated between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2018. The two countries were able to agree on the establishment of de-escalation zones reaching 15-20 kilometers, with Russia taking responsibility from preventing the Assad regime carrying out offensives, while Turkey being reassured that radical groups, heavy artillery, and tanks in the said de-escalation zones would be displaced by mid-October 2018.
However, current reports state that as of Feb. 2, 66 medical centers, 106 schools, 18 market places, 71 mosques, two water plants, three electricity plants, and 16 bakeries have been targeted in attacks conducted by Russia and the Assad regime. The death toll is close to 500 people, including humanitarian workers, civil security officers and medical personnel. U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock expressed his concerns on July 31 that the crisis in Idlib can turn into "the worst humanitarian disaster the world has seen so far in this century."
Meanwhile, the regime's media outlet SANA stated earlier this week that their forces have been targeting "terrorist organizations in rural Idlib." Regime forces' and their backers' indifference to attacking civilians and health workers has drawn criticism from humanitarian organizations across the globe.
The director of policy at the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Physicians for Human Rights, Susannah Sirkin, commented last week in a report, "[The attacks on medical facilities and staff are] a deliberate, inhumane, illegal strategy of war." She said that when hospitals are bombed and medical staff killed, "it's more than just their lives that are being lost, it is also lives of those who will die without access to medical treatment." As civilians continue their attempt to escape from the violence in Idlib, almost 10% of civilians in the Eriha, Seraqib, and Maaret al-Numan provinces have relocated, Syria Intervention Coordinators Director Muhammed Hallac said. The opposition's last enclave, Idlib's pre-war population of 1.5 million has swelled to around 3 million with new refugee waves after it was designated a "de-escalation zone" under the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran in May 2017 to pave the way for a permanent political solution in Syria.
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