As of 30 March, non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have gained full control of Idleb City, pushing government forces back along the highway to the town of Mastumeh. Simultaneously NSAGs have been pushing into areas west of the GOS supply route between Mastumeh and Ariha in an attempt to cut off the two cities from each other. During most of 30 March, there were reports of GoS forces carrying out increased aerial attacks on Idleb city, including reports of barrel bombs.
An estimated 20,000 Shia minorities who reside in government-controlled Foah and Kafraya enclaves north of Idleb City, which have been surrounded by NSAGs, remain particularly at risk. On 29 March, NSAG Ahrar al Sham issued a statement warning that they intend to shell Foah and Kafraya towns in retaliation to targeting of civilians in aerial campaigns by the Government of Syria, including reports of barrel bombs.
Already two health facilities – the National Hospital and the SARC clinic – have reportedly been hit by GOS airstrikes. The number of casualties is still unknown and most of the wounded have been evacuated to other health facilities in rural Idlib. The health sector reports that all health facilities inside the city are closed.
The immediate protection concerns include an escalation of use of indiscriminate weapons, such as shelling and aerial bombardment, and the subsequent challenges to evacuate sick and wounded, and difficulties for civilians to leave the area affected by conflict.
As of 30 March, the estimated number of people displaced has increased to an estimated 145,000, including 45,000 people fleeing to GOS controlled areas (35,000 in Ariha, 8,000 in rural Hama and less than 100 in Tartous and Homs and an estimated 300 in Lattakia city), and to up to 100,000 fleeing to NSAG controlled areas.
Although a large portion of the city population still remains (estimated at approximately 500,000 before the events), local sources are reporting that thousands of families have been fleeing to the countryside since the early morning of 30 March as a result of increased aerial bombardments or anticipation thereof.
The main access/flight routes between Idleb city and government-controlled areas have been completely cut due to advances by NSAGs. As a result, the most immediate flight routes are towards NSGA-controlled areas; those wishing to access government-controlled areas must do so at greater risk, travelling into NSAG-controlled rural Hama and from there crossing frontlines to Ariha, Tartous or Homs. As a result, most future displacement is likely to lead towards NSAG-controlled areas, particularly around the border crossing at Bab al-Hawa.
SARC Hama has registered around 875 people (registration remains ongoing) and opened three collectives shelters in schools, one each in Jorin, Nabe Eltib and al rehaniyah villages. An estimated 900 people (150 families) were displaced to Salamiyah in eastern rural Hama. SARC Hama expects up to 15,000 people (2,500 families) to arrive in Hama from Idleb as a result of the current insecurity.
As regards people fleeing to NSAG controlled areas, local sources report that almost 6,000 families have managed to find refuge in around 30 different villages in northern Idlib between Bab Al Hawa and Idlib city, predominantly in Salqin, Kili, Maaret Numan, and Adana. Another 600 families are reported to be in Haran Bush, Druze villages, Kili, Zardana, Kafar, Yahmoule, Hazano, Abian, Al Jeineh, and Kafr Kamin. Neighboring towns such as Binnish and Sarmin are reportedly almost completely deserted with their inhabitants having also relocated to the countryside. Local partners expect that approximately 3,000-4,000 more families will flee in anticipation of increased attacks during the next 24 hours.
OCHA continues to coordinate rapid response and preparedness via sector/cluster coordination mechanisms from both Turkey and the Tartous and Homs hubs inside Syria.
Sectors continue to provide updates on stocks available in Tartous, Lattakia and Ariha which can be used to respond to the needs of IDPs and have been requested to consider pre-positioning stock in Hama and Homs. The Protection and Community Services Sector (PCSS) has mapped referral capacity in affected governorate. The Health Sector has reported that there would be enough medicine in Idleb City to cover the need of 236,000 emergency health beneficiaries following a large delivery by partners on 15 March and a number of partners have supplies in warehouses in Tartous and Lattakia. The Health sector has dispatched additional supplies to lattakia sufficient to respond to the emergency health needs of an estimated 150,000 people.
Due to the large IDP caseload in Ariha, SARC is planning to send a rapid response team there tomorrow.
The CCCM cluster is consolidating information on displacement and so far report some 16,000 people (3,200 families) have been recorded in 56 locations, about a third of which have been confirmed by more than one source or particularly experienced partners. In NSAG controlled areas local NGOs and 12 civil defense units (white helmets) working within and around Idleb City have been the primary focal point for evacuation, rescue operations and resettlement. Food assistance is planned for the 940 households arriving in Darkush and Harim.
Food response is planned for the 940 households arriving in Darkush and Harem. Increased water pumping in Harem and Salqin and NFI support may also be possible, particularly to those in collective centres or outside in public places. Between 24 and 26 March, 15 injured were evacuated to Turkey via Bab el Hawa crossing. Health partners have reported needs in other sectors as well, including 3,000 mattresses and blankets needed for Broma, Salqin, Kafr Takharim, and Harem and tents, clothing, and mattresses for 70 families in the southern Aleppo countryside. They also report that the only bakery open in Idleb city stopped working. UNICEF and NGO partners report that 20 essential drug kits will be delivered to NGOs inside Idleb governorate and prepositioned until ongoing needs assessments determine where they are needed.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.