Despite the opposition taking back the town of Saraqib alongside Turkish forces, there are still 900,000 refugees fleeing towards the Turkish border in the depths of a bitter winter.

In recent days Syrian opposition forces backed by the Turkish military have made advances in retaking land occupied by the Assad regime.

The town of Saraqib, which intersects with the strategic M4 and M5 highway, was recaptured by the Syrian opposition alongside Turkish forces.

The continuing crisis in Idlib threatens to become “the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century,” according to a UN official.

Mark Lowcock, who is the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, added that “mothers are burning plastic to keep children warm” and “babies and small children are dying because of the cold.”

Since the beginning of December last year, Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria, has been under intense bombardment by the Assad regime and its Russian backers.

The onslaught has resulted in more than 900,000 people fleeing towards the Turkish border in the middle of a bitter winter. The flow of people marks the single largest displacement since the beginning of the war in 2011.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference: “The regime will not be able to obtain military victory.” However, beyond the platitudes, there were no concrete efforts announced either to aid the Syrian people fleeing or to sanction its backers.

The Donald Trump administration has made it clear that beyond offering concern and condemnation it is unwilling to ensure or assist Turkey in ensuring a safe-zone in northwest Syria.

European countries on the other hand, which stand to be impacted the most after Turkey, have largely taken a backseat to the crisis in Idlib.

The recent proposal for France, Germany, Russia and Turkey to meet in Berlin, following a call between the leaders, suggests that Europe is prepared to take some tentative steps, but not before March 5 when the meeting is expected.

Syrian civilians will be expected to wait until the end of next week for any sort of resolution. 

The EU has made no concrete proposal to increase the level of humanitarian aid to Syrians in Idlib or make plans about a potential exodus of people from the region.

Unlike the US, which in December approved the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019, a series of sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals doing business with the Syrian regime, the EU has introduced no such mechanism.

Turkey has embarked on several operations in Idlib to halt advances by the Assad regime and its backers as it seeks to find a diplomatic solution for a permanent ceasefire. 

Thousands of Turkish troops have been deployed to the region in a bid to back opposition forces in one of the last rebel-held areas of Syria.

Since the Assad regime began its offensive in Idlib in December of last year, more than 900,000 civilians have been displaced and hundreds killed. The movement of people in Idlib is the largest since the conflict began.

Idlib’s population has swelled during the war to more than 3.5 million people, with many fleeing from other regions of Syria. 

Source: TRT World