More than 200,000 people have fled their homes in northern Syria in recent weeks amid an ongoing bombardment of their cities, towns and villages by government forces, according to a Syrian humanitarian group.
The Syrian Response Coordination Group said Wednesday 216,632 people have been displaced since November as Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues a military campaign to regain control of the area from rebels.
“We call upon the international agencies and global community to put pressure directly on the Syrian regime and its allies to stop the military campaign,” the group said in a statement.
The group said they counted the internally displaced people arriving at some 249 cities, towns and villages and that more than 252 people, including 79 children, have been killed by the Syrian regime since November.
It also derided the international community amid the ongoing crisis for their silence, stating Syria would have the “courage” to commit such violence unless they were “guaranteed” the rest of the world would allow it.
“The continuous silence of [the] global community is considered as an open invitation for Syrian regime and Russians to continue to challenge the international humanitarian law, acting beyond the law and committing to more crimes against civilians,” the group said.
Starting early last week, Syria began aerial bombardment in southern Idlib, exasperating the displacement of people in the area. Then on Thursday, ground fighting began, “amplifying this wave of displacement as civilians are fleeing in anticipation of fighting directly affecting their communities next,” said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” for the safety and protection of civilians in Idlib amid the ongoing violence, stating the U.N. had brokered a six-hour pause to the violence on Saturday to enable safe passage for some 2,500 people to flee.
“The United Nations urges all parties to ensure the protection of civilians, and to allow sustained and unhindered access by all humanitarian parties to provide life-saving assistance to all in need,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general.
He said since the fighting intensified Thursday, 38 communities were shelled and 47 were struck by airstrikes.
Unicef said Tuesday that children have been greatly affected by the ongoing violence with more than 500 children killed in the first nine months of this year. In December, at least 65 children have been killed or injured, it said.
“Recent intensified violence in densely populated areas of Ma’arat An-Nu’man, south of Idlib city, has pushed thousands of families to flee north,” said Ted Chaiban, Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “These displacements are adding pressure on generous host communities and on overcrowded camps. May families still have no shelter at all and are sleeping out in the open.”