Around 73,000 civilians have returned to northwestern Syria’s Idlib province in a month after the cease-fire deal brokered by Turkey and Russia went into effect early March.
Mohammad Hallaj, director of Syria's Response Coordination Group, who carries out work on migration data in the region, told Anadolu Agency (AA) Monday that around 73,000 displaced people returned to their homes in the last opposition-bastion while those whose homes are left under the Bashar Assad regime’s territory preferred to stay in areas near the Turkish border.
One of the civilians who managed to return home, Abu Mustafa, stated that he came back to al-Atarib in order to rebuild his home that was damaged by regime attacks.
“On Feb. 14 we did not know where to flee from the regime forces’ intense attacks. The attacks continued till the morning. We had to leave our homes. We settled into one of the camps near the border,” Mustafa said.
Mustafa, who explained their dire situation, added “We came back around four days ago. We built our home. Even if we have only one room, it is better than a tent and migration. We have neither electricity nor water or food.
Abdullah Ali, another civilian who returned also came to rebuild his home after being displaced.
“We cannot live in areas occupied by Assad forces. We ran. We lost our home. We endured attacks. We migrated. Now we have returned. We will continue our lives on or under the wreck,” he said.
The population of the province had gradually increased with many people running from regime attacks and terrorist torture. However, the displacement of civilians has intensified since mid-December when the Russian-backed Assad regime started a new assault to seize the last opposition bastion. It is estimated that over 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the last year, while half of this number was displaced after November 2019. After heightened tensions, Russia and Turkey earlier this month reached an agreement to halt violence and the flow of displacement. As part of the agreement, all military activities will end in Idlib and a security corridor will be established 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) deep to the north and to the south of the M4 highway.
In Syria's northwest, some 3 million people are trapped in a shrinking opposition bastion battered by months of bombardment, especially in Idlib. Hundreds of thousands of people in overcrowded settlements are teeming with fresh arrivals, and many of the displaced are forced to sleep in freezing temperatures in open spaces.
The camps in northwest Syria are densely populated, and there is insufficient relief reaching them, while the health and education sectors struggle to provide the required services.
Even though nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and Turkish institutions and relief organizations struggle to meet the needs of the many civilians in the war-torn country, in the face of the new coronavirus threat, aid is insufficient. In a situation where even the most developed and modern countries are desperate in the fight against the virus, it is hard to expect a country with almost no standing hospital and where children cannot find water to wash their hands to cope with the threat. Only half of the countries’ medical facilities are still operating.