This report is produced by the OCHA Syria Crisis offices with the contribution of all sectors in the hubs and at the Whole of Syria (WoS) level. It covers the period from 1 October – 5 November 2017. The next report will be issued on or around 10 December.
The overall humanitarian and protection situation for civilians displaced from Ar-Raqqa city remains of high concern, particularly with regard to explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination, amongst other factors. ERW mapping and clearance is required to ensure access for humanitarian partners and create a safe environment that is conducive for voluntary returns.
While no civilians remain in the central neighborhoods of Ar-Raqqa city, some 8,000 individuals have returned to the eastern and western periphery of the city. The SDF announced that no civilian returns will be permitted to central neighborhoods of the city for a period of three months, until full clearance from unexploded ordnances.
The humanitarian community has developed a joint position paper on the return to Ar-Raqqa city, highlighting the imperative of safety, voluntary, well informed and sustainable return as the criteria guiding any intervention in support to the return of the displaced population.
Displacements from and within Deir-ez-Zor governorate continued due to heavy fighting and airstrikes. Large influxes of IDPs from Deir-ez-Zor governorate are straining existing capacities and services in IDP sites across north-eastern Syria resulting in increased humanitarian and protection needs. Camps are overcrowded since arrivals continue to far exceed departures in most of the locations.
146,999 people displaced from Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor governorates between 1 – 31 October (Source: CCCM Cluster)
454,451 people reached with food assistance from 1 – 31 October in Ar-Raqqa, Aleppo, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates
102,500 people benefiting from 20,500 hygiene kits distributed in IDP camps from 1 – 31 October
170,000 children aged 0-59 months were vaccinated against polio in Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ezZor governorates from 1 – 31 October
Following the announced completion of military operations in Ar-Raqqa city on 20 October, the remaining civilians in the central neighborhoods were evacuated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). On 20 October, local authorities announced a response plan for Ar-Raqqa city where rubble removal, explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance, road openings and an emergency response would be the priority before beginning the restoration of basic services, such as electricity, water and sewage networks. Rubble removal and ERW clearance efforts have started.
While no civilians remain in the central neighborhoods of Ar-Raqqa city, some 5,000 individuals have returned to the eastern and western periphery of the city.
Reportedly, unexploded ordinances and landmines, as well as widespread destruction rates of up to 80 per cent constitute severe protection concerns. Due to difficult conditions at the IDP camps across the governorate, some IDPs attempted to return to Ar-Raqqa city. Between 20 and 21 October, nine people were reportedly killed by mines while trying to enter Ar-Raqqa city to check on their houses in different areas. On 22 October, four family members were also killed due to a mine explosion while trying to return to Al-Tayar neighborhood in Ar-Raqqa city. On 26 October, four people were reportedly killed in landmine explosions while also trying to check their houses in Ar-Raqqa city. On 27 October, four IDPs were reportedly killed in landmine explosions in a school shelter in the Ratla area.
To date, humanitarian partners have been unable to access the city until the clearing of mines and other unexploded ordnance is completed. The central neighborhoods remain closed for civilian returns for a period of at least three months. The SDF and local authorities reportedly continue to implement public messaging on the dangers of returns to the city via radio, television, and newspaper announcements.
Meanwhile, tensions continue to escalate among IDPs, who have not yet been able to return to their homes in the city. On 27 October, IDPs from Al-Mashlab neighborhood in the eastern part of Ar-Raqqa city demonstrated in Tabqa city for permission to return home. The demonstrations quickly escalated when SDF members reportedly wounded up to 12 protesters. Following the incident, SDF sources confirmed that the residents will be allowed to return to ArRaqqa city immediately after the mine clearance. As such, all mine clearance capacity in the city was reportedly diverted to Al-Mashlab neighbourhood. On 5 November, the Raqqa Civil Council and SDF reportedly allowed 5,000 – 7,000 civilians to return to their homes in Al-Mashlab neighbourhood in Ar-Raqqa city. Reportedly, returnees had to sign a document which states that the returnee is responsible for returning to the neighbourhood, that he/she refrains from carrying out any destabilizing acts and that he/she will cooperate with the local and security authorities.
On 29 October, the SDF/Asayesh security forces permitted about 6,000 civilians to return to their homes in Raqqa Samra village 4 km east of Ar-Raqqa city, after they were displaced for about 5 months. SDF announced that the village was cleared of ERWs and the village is safe for civilians to return. After civilians returned, reports about loss of property and looting taking place prior to their return emerged.
During the reporting period, Government of Syria (GoS) forces advanced further inside Deir-ez-Zor city. On 3 November, Deir-ez-Zor city was declared to be under the full control of GoS and allied forces. Consequently, GoS engineering units embarked on sweeping the area to remove unexploded ordnance (UXOs). Following the GoS forces’ takeover of Deir-ez-Zor city, an estimated 150 individuals are reportedly trapped in the Hweijit Qate’a river island, where the remaining ISIL fighters that were in Deir-ez-Zor city are present. Some advocacy organizations have issued statements on the issue, calling on the warring parties to ensure the safety of the trapped civilians. While GoS and allied forces have advanced on the ground in southern Deir-ez-Zor governorate, SDF forces have advanced from the northern areas of the governorate. During the reporting period, the SDF with support from Coalition forces gained control of Markada town in southern Al-Hasakeh governorate.
Meanwhile, the southern desert of Abu Kamal near the border with Iraq witnessed violent clashes and the Syrian forces managed to advance in the area of T2 station and became less than 15 km away from Abu Kamal city, after controlling Okash field. On 17 October, airstrikes on Abu Kamal city in eastern rural Deir-ez-Zor governorate reportedly hit food trucks offloading in a square, killing nine people and injuring many others. On 19 October, an airstrike reportedly hit the river crossing (Abu Kamal-Baguz), killing 20 people (including 5 Iraqi refugees) and injuring 12 others. On 21 October, airstrikes on Basira town reportedly destroyed a hospital and the only water station. On 23 October, airstrikes on Deir-ez-Zor city reportedly hit a mosque and a bakery in the Al-Qusour neighborhood, killing at least 25 people and injuring over 50 others, in addition to damaging about 70 houses. On 28 October, one person was reportedly killed and three women and four children were injured due to airstrike on Moezleh. On 28 October, a man and a woman from Muhasan were reportedly killed after being shot by SDF while trying to displace to Hasakeh governorate. On 30 October, Al-Ba’ath bridge, which connects Shekh Yasin, Al-Hamediyeh and Al-Ardi neighborhoods with Al-Hawiqa neighborhood in Deir-ez-Zor city, was destroyed due to an airstrike.
On 24 October, local authorities in Deir-ez-Zor city called on the United Nations to protect civilians in the governorate from airstrikes. The statement declared that entire areas in the southern Euphrates River have become empty of civilians, while over 40 per cent of houses were damaged or destroyed. Local authorities have documented the death of at least 329 civilians in airstrikes on Deir-ez-Zor governorate between August and September 2017. The statement asked all parties to the conflict to stop recruiting children, open safe corridors for civilian movement, protect civilians and establish well equipped camps.
An estimated 350 IDPs (majority of whom are women and children) from Deir-ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqa governorates have been reportedly stranded in the Qamishli airport for more than two weeks. Reports indicate an urgent need for food, blankets and other NFIs particularly as winter is approaching. The IDPs reportedly want to proceed to Damascus but are waiting for sponsorship from their relatives in the capital. Exact departure arrangements and date are still unknown.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.