Crisis in Syria worsens as Russia launches air strikes against Idlib
After American threats to conduct air strikes on Syrian finally subsided, Russia took upon itself, the task of bombing the region of Idlib, simultaneously adding Syrian barrel bombs to the mix.
The province of Idlib and a couple more adjacent areas form the largest region in Syria still held by rebels. The air strikes being conducted by the Russians and their own Government has already dispatched roughly 30,452 people. That is not all. Another 800,000 civilians could likely be forced to move, adding to the horrors these people are witnessing every day. In its seven-year war history, roughly half a million people have been brutally killed and millions more have been turned into refugees. This latest crisis has 3 million civilians in its midst, including a perplexing total of 1 million children. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, 10 civilians died in the rebel zone while the next day, two children were blown to their deaths by a couple of heavy barrel bombs in southern Idlib. According to the United Nations, for every fighter in Idlib, there are 100 civilians, most of them women and children. This population is a result of thousands of rebels and civilians rushing into Idlib. Now, reports claim these rebels are planning a counter-attack. Rebel armed forces spokesman Mohammed Hamadin told website Enab Baladi, “It is our duty to defend Idlib in case it came under attack by the regime and its allied militias.”
President Bashar Assad has an eye set out on Idlib, all the while his troops increase bombardment of the province. Recent days have also seen an increase in attacks on civilian infrastructure via air strikes, shelling and barrel bombing, courtesy of Russian and Iranian forces. Two hospitals and two centres running rescue operations for wounded people were put out of service by these strikes, according to the Britain-based Observatory and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which backs medical centres in Syria. Mark Lowcock, chief of the UN’s Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, told a news conference in Geneva, “There need to be ways of dealing with this problem that doesn’t turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century. We are very actively preparing for the possibility that civilians move in huge numbers in multiple directions.” OCHA spokesman David Swanson told AFP, “We’re deeply concerned about this recent escalation of violence, which has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 in the area. That’s something we’re monitoring very closely.”
Survivors tell chill-inducing tales of escape. Abu Jassim said he and his family were absconding the latest assault near the southern town of Khan Sheikhun, after already having been displaced several times within the region owing to the war. “They hit with four rockets so we escaped with our flock”, he said. “We go wherever it’s safe… I have 30 sheep. Every day, I need water, hay and bran to feed them.” Ibrahim al-Hamawi, a 25-year-old father in Idlib told Syria Direct, “The bombing hasn’t stopped, it’s ferocious. I don’t know where my family and I can go now.” Diplomats are meeting to work on solutions while Idlib burns day and night. The United States and the other Western superpowers are concerned about the rebels’ use of chemical weapons for their counter-attacks. France’s armed forces minister Florence Parly said in a radio interview, “A few days ago, we decided to warn the regime and its allies against any further use of chemical weapons. We confirm that this was a red line and remains so, and when you cross a red line you must expect a response, specifically from France. We fear a humanitarian disaster. France is doing its utmost to prevent this carnage.”
Last week, talks between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran to resolve this issue resulted into utter chaos and embarrassment on live television. Turkey is also making matters worse by positioning troops and rebel forces throughout the province as part of previous deals hammered out with Iran and Russia. The UN and Russia discuss new Syrian constitution while emergency workers risk their lives everyday by collecting dead bodies and fighting to save the ones alive, all the while treading on bombs that could go off any second.
*Neha Hardikar is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team