Turkey | Syria: Eastern Countryside of Aleppo Flash Update (as of 5 March 2017) [EN/AR]
While fighting to take Al Bab city ended on 23 February with NSAGs associated with the Euphrates Shield taking over the city, hostilities to the east of Al-Bab city intensified on 25 February causing the displacement of more than 26,000 people.
A total of almost 66,000 people were displaced in recent fighting. This includes nearly 40,000 people from Al-Bab city and nearby Tadef town, as well as, 26,000 people from communities to the east of Al-Bab city.
The high contamination of UXO/IEDs in Al-Bab city is one of the main challenges facing returning civilians and humanitarians trying to respond.
With the situation on the ground remaining unstable, humanitarian priorities include assurances by all parties for freedom of movement for civilians, the facilitation of civilian demining activities and unfettered access for humanitarian agencies and partners.
In November 2016, under the banner of “Euphrates Shield”, fighting between non-state armed groups (NSAGs) associated with the Euphrates Shield and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) commenced in and around Al-Bab city. The hostilities later decreased, only to proliferate again during the beginning of February 2017. On 23 February, the NSAGs associated with the Euphrates Shield announced that they have full control over Al-Bab city as well as the nearby towns of Qabasin and Bazagha.
Prior to the takeover of Al-Bab city by NSAGs, concerns were raised regarding the safety of an estimated 5,000 civilians who were believed to be trapped in the city. It is understood that some of these civilians were evacuated by NSAGs during the last days of the offensive.
On 24 February, hostilities between Government of Syria forces and ISIL in the Tadef town erupted, resulting in the takeover of the aforementioned town by the former. The hostilities caused the displacement of an estimated 2,000 people, all of whom reportedly fled northwards.
As ISIL retreats, the threat of attacks remains high. On 24 February, a car bomb exploded in Sosyan village north of Al-Bab city reportedly claimed the lives of at least 73 people and wounded 125.
Reportedly, the majority of the civilians killed were IDPs from Al-Bab city, who were travelling through Sosyan village at the time on their way back to Al Bab city.
How soon humanitarian organizations will have access to Al-Bab city and surrounding communities remains to be seen. Aside from the IED/UXO contamination in town, there are no reported constraints to physical access to the affected population, especially as the Bab Al-Salam border crossing point is open. At present, there is no local council active in Al-Bab, a members of that council are based in Turkey and operate the council from there.
Since 25 February, to the east of Al-Bab city, hostilities between different parties to the conflict have intensified. Fighting continues between NASGs under the Euphrates Shield banner and ISIL; while at the same time, Government of Syria forces launched an offensive against ISIL in southern rural Menbij and Al-Khafsa sub-district. As a result, thousands of civilians were displaced in A’rima, Menbij and AlKhafsa sub-districts.
Given the recent advances Government of Syria forces have made, an overland route between Government of Syria held areas in Aleppo governorate and Syrian Democratic Forces held areas in Menbij and northeastern Syria might open up, potentially making it possible to deliver humanitarian supplies using this route in the coming months.