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Syria: Update on situation in the north-west

27 Dec 2019


Children fleeing the escalating violence in Idleb, Syria, take shelter in an overcrowded camp for internally displaced persons in Atmeh, close to the Turkish border (May 2019). Credit: UNICEF/Watad

The UN remains deeply concerned for the safety and protection of more than 3 million civilians in the Idleb area of north-west Syria, more than half of whom are internally displaced, as violence has escalated in the past two weeks.

According to current estimates, more than 235,000 people have been displaced from southern Idleb since 12 December, including at least 140,000 children.

In particular, the city of Ma’arrat An-Numan and its surrounding area is now reported to be almost empty of civilians as families fled northwards to safety. People from Saraqab and surrounding areas are also now reported to be fleeing in fear that fighting will affect their communities.

The UN has received disturbing reports of civilians killed while on the move. On 24 December, an airstrike reportedly impacted an area where displaced people had gathered near Jawbas village, near Saraqab town. At least 12 people, including 4 children, were reportedly killed.

Ground fighting is also impacting civilians, with reports of shelling in northwest Hama injuring tens of civilians including women and children, and severely damaging residential areas.

Winter conditions are also exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation. Families are fleeing in torrential rain and temperatures at night are close to freezing. More than 100,000 of those who have fled in the last week are reported to be living in camps, unfinished or partially destroyed buildings, in tents, under trees, and even out in the open.

The newly displaced adds to the over 400,000 women, children and men that were displaced as a result of hostilities between the end of April and early December, many of them multiple times. During the same period, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded more than 1,330 civilian deaths. 

The UN urges all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians, freedom of movement, and to allow sustained and unhindered access by all humanitarian parties to provide life-saving assistance to all in need.