Syrian IDPs in Idlib recount deadly shelling by Assad forces

At least two civilians have been killed and two others wounded in a rocket attack by Syrian regime forces on a displacement camp on the outskirts of Sarmin city in the rebel-held Idlib province, according to a Syrian volunteer emergency rescue group.

The Syria Civil Defence group, also known as the White Helmets, said on Sunday that an elderly man and a woman were killed in the northwestern province on Saturday, and two others were wounded, including a child who is in serious condition.The White Helmets said that the camp, which accommodates approximately 25 displaced families from Idlib and the Hama countryside, was shelled by the Syrian regime forces based in the city of Saraqib east of Idlib.

“After our teams rescued the victims, provided medical assistance to the injured, and extinguished the fire that broke out in the camp, Syrian regime forces resumed shelling the vicinity of the camp,” said Munir Mustafa, the deputy director of the Syria Civil Defence.

Mustafa told Al Jazeera that this is the fourth attack targeting a camp in northwest Syria and the second shelling on a camp on the outskirts of Sarmin city, which has been targeted by regime forces for months.

On September 2, the shelling of residential neighbourhoods in Sarmin resulted in the death of a baby and the injury of four other civilians.

“Our teams have responded to 711 attacks by the regime, Russia, and their affiliated militias since the beginning of this year until September 12,” Mustafa said, adding that 61 people have been killed, including 11 children and 5 women, and 261 others wounded.“The escalation and terrorist attacks in northwest Syria threaten the stability of civilians in an area that has become the last refuge for thousands of families displaced by the regime and Russia,” Mustafa added.Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire agreement in March 2020 after months of bloodshed following a military offensive by the Russian-backed Syrian forces in Idlib, part of which was declared a de-escalation zone in 2017.

However, this agreement is repeatedly violated by Syrian regime forces.

Tarek al-Hamad, who was displaced from the eastern Hama countryside six years ago, lost his grandfather and aunt in Saturday’s rocket attack on the camp in Sarmin.

The 20-year-old says the shelling hit the tent housing his grandfather about 50m (164 feet) away from his own tent.

“I rushed to help my family leave the area and then returned to the camp to check on my relatives and friends, only to find my grandfather drowning in his blood while he was in bed,” al-Hamad said.

“It was like the Day of Judgment, the sound of the explosions, the flames, and the dust filling the place, the cries of children and women.

“It’s not enough for the [Bashar] al-Assad regime to displace us from our town; now it wants to kill us even while we are in our tents,” he said.The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that northwestern Syria is home to 4.5 million people, with 1.9 million living in camps for displaced people.

Millions of Syrians from neigbouring provinces such as Hama and Aleppo fled to the region during the 12-year war fought between President al-Assad’s forces and his allies on the one side and opposition armed groups opposed to his rule on the other.

“What happened yesterday is considered a crime in every sense of the word, confirming that the Assad regime’s primary and ultimate goal is to kill the Syrian people wherever they are,” said Ali al-Ali, 64, a father of 10 children.

Al-Ali, who had to flee his village of Qasr Ibn Wardan in the eastern Hama countryside in 2017, was displaced once more by the shelling on Saturday.

The 64-year-old, along with his family, were left with only the clothes on their backs and spent the night out in the open agricultural land.

“From today, I am forced to embark on another journey of displacement, searching for a safe place to live with my family,” he said.

All of his neighbours are now headed towards the Turkish-Syrian border, he said.

“We are humans, and we have the right to live,” Al-Ali said. “How long will the international community remain silent about the crimes committed against us by the Assad regime and Russia?”

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