As Assad regime and Russian warplanes bombard rebel-held Idlib province, many Syrians are fleeing in search of safety.

Aid groups on the ground in north west Syria are warning of the ‘largest ever’ surge in people fleeing rebel-held areas.

Idlib province has been under aerial bombardment by the Assad regime and Russian warplanes since the end of last month, displacing tens of thousands of civilians caught up in the fighting, with monitoring groups putting the death toll at around 300 people.

The strikes targeted rebel areas within designated de-escalation zones, which were agreed upon between Turkey and Russia in 2017.

An earlier UN estimate put the number of displaced at 150,000 due to fighting in Idlib but NGOs say that number has now reached 250,000. 

Many are hoping to cross the Syrian border into Turkey and then move further into Europe.

Fouad Essa, of the Violet Organization, which is on the ground in Idlib, said that the situation there was “the worst” his organisation had experienced in eight years of war.

He said IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) with no place to go were scattered across the countryside, often living in the open in mountainous areas and farms.

“The majority are sitting on open land without shelter or proper aid because they escaped the bombings with a handful of clothes, leaving most of what they had behind,” he told TRT World by phone.

The Violet Organization’s efforts so far have been focused on providing food and transferring those in need to medical centres for treatment.

A father carries his injured child after airstrikes in Idlib
A father carries his injured child after airstrikes in Idlib (AA)

But according to Essa, their work so far falls short of what is needed and crucially what will be needed if the regime offensive continues. Their task is complicated by the fact regime aircraft often target aid workers and medical staff.

“There are no safe places here anymore, everything is a potential target,” he said, adding: “Our teams are under intense pressure on the ground due to random attacks that target the IDP camps and medical centres where we work.

Essa urged the international community to step in over what he believed would be the “largest ever wave of displacement in Syria”.

Ahmad Abu Shaar of the Molham Volunteer Team echoed Essa’s pleas for international help.

He told TRT World that organisations like his, which provide food aid and medical care, needed donations to keep afloat. 

“Our teams on the ground are trying to help families evacuate from villages being attacked, we’re also distributing food to people until they are able to resettle,” Abu Shaar said. 

“We’ve launched a new campaign, which is a joint effort between local NGOs, in order to collect money and donations from people on the streets,” he added, describing how his colleagues in Turkey were meeting with international NGOs to help arrange assistance for those who need it.

UN alarmed

The UN says it is “alarmed” by the ongoing attacks on population centres and civilian infrastructure in Idlib and Hama provinces, which it said had resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Spokesperson David Swanson said the fresh wave of attacks “compounded” an already dire situation for Syrians and warned that the fighting was imperiling humanitarian efforts.

“Some of the attacked health facilities may have been already deconflicted by the parties to the conflict and should therefore have been protected,” he said, adding: “The UN is looking into these reports.

“The impact of obstruction of medical services and shortage of medical equipment and medicine, is starting to be widely felt by the civilian population.”

Source: TRT World