Locals flee Idlib as Syrian regime attacks intensify

Published 16.03.2019 00:53

Continuous attacks by the Bashar Assad regime and its backers devastated northwestern Syria's Idlib province as about 70,000 people have already been displaced, fueling fears that more locals would become refugees.

At least 35 people were killed and more than 321 were wounded in the last 35 days in Idlib in attacks by the regime and Russia and Iranian-backed groups. Due to the attacks, 70,000 out of the 80,000 people in the Khan Shaykhun district of Idlib fled to other parts of the war-torn country, Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported.

Attacks by the regime and its backers have been targeting mostly residential areas, including schools and mosques. Airstrikes and artillery attacks have already turned many buildings into rubble.

The U.N.-sponsored Astana talks between Russia, Iran and Turkey had established four de-escalation zones in the northwestern province of Idlib, north of the central city of Homs, the Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus and in the southern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra. The partial ceasefire, however, was short-lived as regime forces backed by Russia and Iran recaptured three of the areas through heavy bombardments, leaving Idlib as the last stronghold of the opposition. The Assad regime was signaling a grand offensive against Idlib, which was feared would cause a humanitarian catastrophe in the province that is home to about 3.5 million, many internally displaced, Syrians. However, Turkish and Russian intervention prevented the offensive. On Sept. 17, 2018, both countries agreed in Sochi to implement a demilitarized zone between the opposition forces and the regime forces, warding off a possible humanitarian disaster.

Following the recent attacks, Syrians hit the streets early Wednesday to protest regime attacks on a refugee camp in Idlib. Nearly 100 civilians living in northern Syria's Azaz and Al-Bab provinces poured out onto the streets to protest the attacks, the regime and its backer, Russia.

The U.S. on Thursday accused Russia and the Bashar Assad regime of being responsible for "escalating violence" in Idlib following the attacks.

"The United States views with grave concern escalating violence in recent days in Idlib and neighboring areas prompted by Russian and Assad regime airstrikes and artillery," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. "Despite Russia's claims to be targeting terrorists, these operations have caused dozens of civilian casualties and have targeted first responders as they attempt to save lives on the ground," he added.

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