Civilians in densely populated areas have been caught up in joint Russian and Syrian regime air raids. Many say they have no choice but to flee for their lives.

Syrians in Idlib province say they have few options left but to flee the country, as the Syrian regime and Russian war planes target densely populated rebel-held areas.

Fighting between Assad forces and rebels has rattled a tentative truce that brought relative peace to the area.

The Assad regime, backed by Russia, launched an assault on Monday in what was meant to be a de-escalation zone.

In 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to form the de-escalation zones, in order to calm fighting in the area and protect civilians.

The city of Idlib remains the last major urban area still not under Syrian regime control since the Russian intervention began in 2015.

With a population of three million people, an all-out conflict in Idlib province risks displacing hundreds of thousands of people, with many planning to seek safety in neighbouring Turkey and European states.

'Ready to leave'

Samer Amona, a 30-year-old Masters student at Idlib University, said the Assad regime would not stop until it controlled the area, and that she and her family would not wait around to be “killed”.

“Me and my family are ready to leave,” she told TRT World, adding: “We can’t wait until one of us is killed.”

“We will try to cross into Turkey and from there try to find a way towards any European country,” she said.

Amona explained that her relatives left for Europe in 2014 but she did not want to leave at the time.

“I do regret not going to Europe years ago,” she said, adding she was not alone in thinking that way.

“My friends and I have a WhatsApp group where we discuss our plans to go.”

The student of Arabic Literature is not keen on giving up her studies but says there are few options left.

“We don’t know the dangers we’ll face but it won’t be as dangerous as staying here.

“In Europe, I’ll have to start my life from’s not my dream to be a refugee, the world must understand that.”

Many of those in Idlib had settled in the area after fleeing the conflict in other parts of Syria. They say that if they have to uproot again, it will be somewhere far from Syria.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) clear rubble to open a road following reported shelling on the village of Ibdita in the Idlib province on May 8, 2019.
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) clear rubble to open a road following reported shelling on the village of Ibdita in the Idlib province on May 8, 2019. (Omar Haj Kadour / AFP)

'I want to go France or Germany'

Ahlam Bakri, a 34-year-old mother of four, settled in the town of Marat al Numan, in Idlib, after fleeing conflict in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. She said she feared the same fate in Idlib.

“It is the same here in Idlib,” she said, continuing: “I’m not going to wait until regime forces come to my door.”

Like Amona, Bakri has relatives in Europe, who she wants to join.

“I want to go to France or Germany, where my two sisters and other relatives are living in peace,” she told TRT World.

“I wish I left with them when I had the chance,” she rued. 

“It is better than waiting for death here...I want my children to be safe and live normally, I want them to study and play and not be scared of bombs.”

Bakri said that there were absolutely no further options for her but Turkey and Europe.

In 2015, an influx of more than a million refugees entered Europe, hoping to reach northern EU states. The majority were eventually accepted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

NGOs are calling on the international community to act before the clashes preempt an all-out humanitarian crisis mirroring the scale of earlier crises.

Call for international community to act

A spokesperson for the Syrian Expatriates Medical Association said that 150,000 people had already been displaced after hospitals and schools were bombed by regime forces.

“The intensified attacks place an immediate risk on the lives of 300,000 civilians across the targeted areas of the Hama and Idlib countrysides,” the spokesperson said.

“We are urging the concerned UN agencies and the international community to implement resolution 2286 for the protection of medical facilities, as well as taking the necessary steps to reduce the risks facing the civilians in those areas, of death, injury and displacement.

“The international community cannot stand silently and allow for this humanitarian disaster to take place."

Source: TRT World