Syrians are facing increasing suffering and hardships due to the deadly consequences of over a decade of war, a new United Nations report said on Tuesday, as the body warned of a risk of “returning to larger-scale fighting.”
"Syria cannot afford a return to larger-scale fighting, but that is where it may be heading," said Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chair of the U.N.'s Syria commission.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions made homeless since protests against Bashar Assad in 2011 escalated into a civil war that drew in foreign powers and left Syria carved into zones of control.
Fighting has cooled in recent years after Iran and Russia helped Assad recapture 70% of Syrian territory, the United States backed terrorists to allegedly fight Daesh and Türkiye set up a buffer zone near its border. But the United Nations said fault lines between various areas are now starting to heat up again.
"We had an idea at some point that the war was completely finished in Syria," Pinheiro told journalists in Geneva, adding that incidents documented in the report proved this was not the case.
The 50-page report found that "grave violations of fundamental human rights and humanitarian law" had increased across the country in the first six months of this year.
They included fighting and aerial bombardments in the country's northeast and northwest that left dozens of civilians dead and restricted access to food and water, the report said.
In regime-held areas, the Commission documented the deaths of former opposition leaders, house raids and continued torture and ill-treatment in detention centers.
For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further gains of territory and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, causing the displacement of almost half of the country's population.
Local people living in areas held by the YPG have also long suffered from its atrocities, as the terrorist organization has a notorious record of human rights abuses including kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in Syria. The YPG has forced young people from areas under its control to join its forces within its "compulsory conscription."
Russian air strikes over opposition-held areas had increased even further in the last few months, said commissioner Hanny Megally.
Russia joined Syria’s 10-year conflict in September 2015, when the regime's military appeared close to collapse, and has since helped in tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. Hundreds of Russian troops are deployed across Syria and they also have a military air base along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
The Idlib region bordering Türkiye is home to about 3 million people and is one of the last pockets to oppose Damascus.
The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged under an agreement between Türkiye and Russia. The area has been the subject of multiple cease-fire agreements, which the Assad regime and its allies have frequently violated.
"We are seeing increasing violence," Megally told reporters.
It also documented more than a dozen Israeli strikes across Syria in the first six months of 2022, including an attack on Damascus International Airport that put the site out of commission for nearly two weeks.
The U.N. revealed on Wednesday that it had been unable to fly in humanitarian assistance to Syria during that time.
Separately, the United States announced an additional $756 million in humanitarian aid for Syria, which would be distributed across the country to provide food, shelter and other support to needy families.
The U.N. has said more people are in need in Syria than ever before, as an economic crisis further strains their ability to access basic goods and services.