During Thursday’s Humanitarian Task Force meeting, we heard firsthand reporting from our UN colleagues based in the region about the increasingly horrific brutality in recent weeks by all parties involved in the de-escalation area in northwestern Syria, which has caused significant civilian causalities and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Three million people in Idlib need protection. A humanitarian catastrophe is a grave danger if the violence does not cease. Attacks and fighting are also impacting civilians in government-controlled areas.
Let me be clear, the protection of civilians is paramount. Combatting terrorism does not absolve any party from its legal obligations under international humanitarian law to prevent attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. All warring parties must uphold their obligations under international law, and immediately stop attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities, schools, markets and places of worship, which may amount to war crimes.
We have a collective responsibility to the victims of this conflict, many of whom are too young to try to make sense of this senseless war.
The United Nations welcomes news that some 1,000 Syrians and 526 third-party nationals have left Al Hol camp in the northeast of Syria. But the people who remain displaced in Al Hol camp also need urgent protection and assistance, and a durable solution is required. The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of the 72,000 people in the camp are women and children, with around 65 per cent under the age of 12. All children, including those suspected of being associated with armed groups and or terrorist organisations, are entitled to special care and protection under international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These children are victims, and must be treated first and foremost as such.
The situation for 29,000 people in the Rukban settlement remains critical due to a desperately short supply of basic goods and services. They last received assistance more than four months ago. I call again today on Member States with influence to facilitate the immediate delivery of assistance to people in Rukban, and to support the UN’s request to assist those transiting to collective shelters and to people who have returned to areas of origin.
Again, today I appealed to the HTF members’ humanity to deliver on their commitment and spare civilians who have already suffered for so many years. Humanitarian assistance in Syria is a lifeline. Urgent meaningful and concrete actions are needed. It’s not only a humanitarian imperative, it’s a duty.
Geneva, 6 June 2019