Syria – Conflict and Humanitarian Situation (ECHO, UN, NGOs) (ECHO Daily Flash of 31 July 2015)

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Fighting and aerial bombardments continue in several parts of Syria. Earlier in the week, Kurdish forces took over the town of Sarrin. Located about 40km south of Kobane on the border with Turkey, Sarrin lies along the M4 highway, which ISIL uses to connect Aleppo governorate and its Al-Raqqa stronghold. In retaliation, ISIL launched a suicide attack on 30 July killing a number of fighters in Sarrin. The area is not accessible to humanitarian organizations, which have reduced operations to essential life-saving activities in Kobane after the recent attacks in the town and across the border in the Turkish city of Suruc. The border crossing point between Kobane and Suruc is closed and only the passage of emergency cases is allowed.

In Idleb governorate, government forces have carried out an intense air campaign against several locations controlled by armed groups. Bennish, Marrat Tamsrin in the southern parts of the governorate and the city of Saraqab, some 20km east of Idleb city, have been heavily affected by the air attacks. Estimates indicate that more than 30 000 people have been displaced in the past days as a result of insecurity, adding to the successive waves of displacement that Idleb governorate has witnessed in the past three months. Serious concerns also exist regarding the situation of 15 000 civilians in the predominantly Shi’a villages of Fua and Kefraya which are under the pressure of armed groups advancements.

In this context, the UN has expressed serious concerns about the persistent indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Following reports regarding the creation of a "safe zone" in northern Syria, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr Stephen O’Brien, cautioned against calling a proposed buffer along the Turkey-Syrian border a "safe zone," which could potentially attract vulnerable people to an area without sufficient protection. UNHCR also expressed concerns about the concept of safe zones that have historically posed serious risks for the protection of civilians.