Thursday in the International Syria Support Group’s (ISSG) Humanitarian Task Force meeting, Member States were urged to use their influence to support the reduction of violence in northwest Syria, and to increase their support for critical humanitarian needs in Syria.
It is deeply regrettable that the cessation of hostilities that had been announced collapsed Monday and that a new wave of violence is again threatening the lives of millions of civilians who live in the Idlib area, more than a million of whom are children. During the lull in the fighting, many civilians had returned to their homes and are currently in areas where heavy attacks have resumed putting them at great risk.
More than 500 innocent civilians have been killed and hundreds more injured, since the escalation in fighting began in late April. Displacement figures also have climbed at an alarming rate, with some 400,000 men, women and children forced to flee, many of them multiple times. The overwhelming majority of persons fled to densely-populated areas. An additional 30,000 people have been displaced to areas controlled by the government. Shelling in neighbourhoods under Syrian government control also needs to stop.
Aerial and artillery attacks have caused considerable damage to dozens of health facilities, schools, markets, water stations, and other civilian infrastructure. Parties to the deconfliction system, which was designed to enhance the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and operations, have been formally asked by the United Nations to provide information regarding incidences that occurred in northwest Syria this year. Turkey has replied to some of the requests. We are still waiting to hear from the Russian Federation.
Parties to the conflict are legally bound to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, and perpetrators of any violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.
We take note of discussions to establish a “safe-zone” in northeast Syria. Humanitarian actors are increasingly concerned by statements suggesting a possible military intervention, which would have severe humanitarian consequences in an area that has already witnessed years of military activity, displacement, droughts and floods. The area was also recently affected by fires impacting crops and agricultural production. Response efforts to support the 1.6 million people in need in the area, including 604,000 internally displaced persons, continue at scale.
The humanitarian response must also be maintained in Al Hol camp in the northeast, where there are some 68,800 people, the vast majority of whom are Syrian and Iraqi women and children. Protection remains a key concern. Aid has to be provided without discrimination to all those in need, and Member States should take measures to ensure that their nationals are repatriated in accordance with international laws and standards. More information about the whereabouts of family members needs to be provided to camp residents.
The population in the Rukban settlement is declining-some 17,700 people have left toward Syrian government-controlled areas. The UN has been granted approval to implement a joint UN-SARC interagency plan that will assess needs and determine the exact numbers of those who want to leave, assist voluntary departures from Rukban and provide relief to those remaining. Preparations are ongoing. The plan is guided by minimum standards and key protection and operational considerations. All parties are encouraged to support the implementation of the plan and pursue efforts to explore further solutions for those opting to remain or leave to a third destination.
Increasing tensions and the deteriorating situation in Daraa’ and As Sweida, and southern parts of Syria are concerning, and the situation remains fragile. The humanitarian situation is complex, and those with influence must work to resolve these tensions.
Geneva, 8 August 2019