Amman, 11 September 2018
I am deeply worried over the recent escalation of hostilities in northwest Syria, resulting in the new displacement during the past few days of over 30,000 women, children and men and scores of civilian deaths. Currently there are some 6.2 million internally displaced people inside Syria.
Since 4 September, we have witnessed an upsurge in aerial and ground-based bombardment in the area, particularly northern rural Hama and southern rural Idleb, accompanied by an increase in retaliatory rocket and mortar attacks with a dramatic impact on civilians residing in these areas.
As of 9 September, more than 30,000 people have been displaced in the region, with the majority arriving in different locations across Idleb Governorate. By Sunday midday, 47 per cent of the IDPs had sought safety in camps, 29 per cent were hosted by local families, 14 per cent were in self-settled camps or camp-like structures, and the remaining 10 per cent were renting accommodation.
The suffering of civilians has been further compounded by attacks on healthcare facilities. In less than a week, four hospitals in the area have been struck, including the Maghara hospital in Kafr Zita, northern rural Hama, on 6 September, which is a de-conflicted humanitarian site, followed on 8 September by the Nabd Al Hayat hospital in Ma’arrat An Nu’man District, southern rural Idleb, and another hospital in Kafr Zeita Sub-district, Hama Governorate. One day later, the Latamna hospital in Latamna city, northern Hama Governorate, was also struck.
Both the Maghara and Nabd Al Hayat hospitals had been hit several times previously, including as recently as February 2018.
The latest escalation is again impacting civilians in a dramatic way. Our fear as humanitarians is the worst may be ahead of us. The safety and protection of some 2.9 million civilians residing in Idleb and surrounding areas is at risk. This includes some 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), the majority of whom are women and children, who came to the region from other areas.
A further escalation of military operations in Idleb and surrounding areas will not only endanger civilian lives in this densely populated area, but will severely impact humanitarian partners’ ability to deliver life-saving assistance.
Moreover, any increase in fighting will also lead to further displacement in an area where a large number of IDPs are already present, causing not only great hardship to them, but also to those hosting them.
I condemn these horrific attacks in civilian-populated areas and remind all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians – and that no efforts should be spared to minimise the impact of military operations on civilians, including their freedom to safely leave conflict-affected areas in any direction they want, or to remain, should they choose to do so. The immediate safety and security of humanitarian and medical personnel must also be guaranteed.
There must be a peaceful solution and it must be reached now.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.