Press briefing note on Syria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani

Location: Geneva

Date: 7 May 2019

  1. Syria

We are alarmed that the military escalation in northern Hama and southern Idlib provinces in Syria since 29 April has placed in serious danger hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have been surviving there for years. Those fleeing the hostilities are at high risk and continue to face serious protection concerns along the way.

Credible reports suggest that Government and allied forces have intensified attacks within the “demilitarized buffer zone” in southern rural Idlib and northern rural Hama. This military campaign may lead to a response from other armed groups, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham - an Al- Qaeda affiliate group - creating a volatile situation that may provoke further violence and displacement.

The intensification of the violence has already taken a heavy toll on civilians. According to information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office, at least 27 civilians have been killed and 31 injured since 29 April including many women and children. In particular, a series of ground-based attacks and airstrikes have been recorded to have been carried out against civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, causing severe damage.

We call on all parties to the conflict to respect the international humanitarian law principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality and to ensure the full protection of civilian objects.

Yesterday, 6 of May, Government forces started to advance on the ground and captured villages from the non-State armed groups in northern Hama. Additionally, non-State groups carried out counterattacks in Lattakia.

Just on the 30 of April, five civilians were killed and 21 injured in six different attacks in residential areas of southern Idlib and northern rural Hama. One of the bombardments hit a medical facility and another hit the vicinity of an intermediate school.

The intensified military offensive has further resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people who were repeatedly displaced and had to move further north towards northern and eastern rural Idlib and northern and western rural Aleppo seeking safety - but extremely vulnerable to attacks en route.

On 1 May, three civilians (a woman and her two boys) were killed and two other civilians injured as a result of airstrikes and ground-based attacks that hit near their vehicle in Abdeen town as they were fleeing the hostilities in al-Hbeet, heading towards northern Idlib.

UN Human Rights Office further received credible reports about displaced civilians fleeing the hostilities in Idlib that are being prevented by the non-State armed groups from entering the areas under their control in Afrin district in western rural Aleppo.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 /