Syria

Syria: Situation Report 5: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria (as of 14 June 2019)

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HIGHLIGHTS

• Violence in northwest Syria continued over the last ten days throughout Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Airstrikes and shelling in southern Idleb, northern Hama and western Aleppo governorates is putting civilians at risk and impeding the delivery of assistance.

• Humanitarian response is ongoing with hundreds of thousands of people receiving critical assistance essential for their survival. Violence in areas directly affected by conflict is driving displacement into densely-populated areas, putting a strain on service delivery for partners.

• A further escalation of violence, triggering waves of displacement and complicating humanitarian access and provision of humanitarian assistance risks overwhelming an already stretched response.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The toll of the conflict on people in northwest Syria grows as the hostilities in northern Hama, southern Idleb and western Aleppo governorates continue between the Government of Syria (GoS) and allied forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs). Violence has continued unabated since the end of April, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, disrupting the provision of basic services, and killing and injuring large numbers of civilians. Fighting across the front line escalated once more from 3 June onward, despite the Eid al-Fitr period. While the news of a ceasefire agreement was announced on 12 June, hostilities continue to be reported in southern Idleb and northern Hama governorates.

The humanitarian impact of airstrikes and shelling on civilians, particularly those reported in densely-populated areas, continue to compound an already dire humanitarian situation. While information is difficult to verify, local sources are reporting that hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed.

While humanitarian partners are working to respond to the growing needs of the population across northwest Syria, several challenges continue to complicate humanitarian assistance delivery. Civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, continue to be damaged or rendered inoperable across northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates. This has led to the interruption or discontinuation of vital services to the affected population in these locations. Since the end of April, at least 25 health facilities and 37 schools are damaged due to airstrikes and shelling in northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates. In addition to the damage to the civilian infrastructure, many humanitarian actors had to suspend services in areas directly affected by the conflict, due to the displacement of their staff and beneficiaries, as well as to keep them safe. For those people who had to stay behind in these areas, receiving life-saving humanitarian assistance is more and more important as their resources deplete, and their vulnerability deepens. Furthermore, airstrikes and shelling make travelling to markets and hospitals, or seeking other services unsafe for civilians.
Since the beginning of April to 22 May, more than 300,000 displacements from northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates have been recorded. While this figure includes secondary displacement figures and do not directly translate to the number of displaced individuals, it is indicative of the scale of the ongoing displacement as well as the displacement patterns. A small number of recently displaced individuals have headed to northern Aleppo governorate, whereas the vast majority have displaced within Idleb Governorate. Newly displaced individuals are moving to areas that are already densely-populated, such as the Dana sub-district. This puts humanitarian operations that are already at or above capacity under considerable strain.

While humanitarian actors in these areas scaled up their operations within the scope of their ongoing programming, several partners are voicing their concerns that they are depleting their existing resources and will need further support to continue providing services to both the newly displaced individuals and the existing caseload in host communities. In addition, there are reports of civilians, an estimated 850 families, moving out of NSAG-held areas to GoS-held areas, where they will also need humanitarian assistance keeping in mind that areas close to the front line on the GoS-held territory are also affected by hostilities. In particular, the intensity of the hostilities is reportedly overwhelming the health response in this area with civilians having to seek health services in hospitals located elsewhere.

Fires across northwest Syria that damage or destroy crops continue to be reported regularly. The areas most affected are around the frontline where airstrikes and shelling trigger fires. There are also reports that the use of incendiary weapons cause some of these fires, destroying essential crops such as wheat and barley. According to a satellite assessment carried out by the NGO REACH, more than 18,000 acres of cropland had been burnt in the sub-districts of Kafr Zeita, Khan Shaykun, Madiq Castle, Karnaz, Muhradah and Suran West (26 May). The loss of crops is expected to have a drastic impact on the annual crop yield in northwest Syria, further undermining food security and livelihoods in the weeks and months to come in this highly agricultural area.

On 22 May, the GoS announced that Murak-Souran crossing point will be opened to allow civilians leave NSAGcontrolled areas. However, since then there were no indications that this crossing point would be open

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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