As fighting intensifies throughout northern Aleppo governorate, thousands of people continue to flee in search of safety. The protection of civilians remains the highest concern.
On 15 February, five health facilities were hit by airstrikes in Aleppo and Idleb governorates, devastating health infrastructure and cutting essential health services to thousands.
Cross-border assistance has increased to meet the needs of IDPs and to pre-position stocks in eastern Aleppo city in case it becomes cut off1 . Nonetheless, shifting conflict lines and the cutting off of key routes has hindered access and/or compelled agencies to adapt operations.
The map below illustrates recent conflict lines and the direction of movement of IDPs: (see the map in the attached PDF)
In early February, Government of Syria (GoS) and allied forces launched a major military offensive against Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) in the northern Aleppo countryside. This multi-pronged offensive was launched from the eastern flank of Aleppo city and initially connected GoS-held territories to the NSAG-surrounded villages of Nubul and Zahra. Through linking these territories, the GoS has blocked a key supply corridor from the Bab al Salam border crossing point to NSAG-controlled eastern Aleppo city. Access to eastern Aleppo city is still possible through the Bab el Hawa border crossing by passing through Idleb governorate. However, the only remaining access route into the city for cross-border partners, Castello road, is under regular fire and highly insecure. At least one humanitarian truck was hit last week.
On 13 February, GoS and allied forces, supported by multiple air strikes, continued ground offensives towards Tall Refaat town, taking a string of villages in Tall Refaat subdistrict. This displaced additional communities towards Azaz city and the Bab al-Salam border crossing point to Turkey. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including a Kurdish armed group, meanwhile exerted control over territory just west of the Tall Refaat-Azaz road, taking control of the town of Tall Refaat on 16 February. SDF forces also captured part of the Afrin-Azaz road from NSAGs. Turkish armed forces opposing these developments shelled SDF positions in Afrin and Azaz on 13 February. GoS forces continued their offensive towards eastern Aleppo city, capturing the town of Tamourah and triggering a new wave of displacement from the city to the western countryside.
The cutting off of the Tall Refaat-Azaz road has disrupted a main IDP flight route into Afrin district from Azaz and the area near the Turkish border, where large numbers have gathered over the past week. For several days IDPs have been taking buses to Afrin town and through the district south towards the Aleppo and Idleb countryside to avoid the confrontation line north of Aleppo city. They travelled under an arrangement organised by the Aleppo Governorate Council and the Kurdish Red Crescent. However with new tensions and fighting between the SDF and other NSAGs west of Azaz, this route for IDPs is no longer open.
Five NGO-supported hospitals were struck from the air on 15 February in Aleppo and Idleb governorates2 . Two of these were in Azaz town in Aleppo governorate and three in Idleb governorate. The Azaz Maternity Hospital was the last hospital to remain operational in Azaz town and was supported by UN Humanitarian Pooled Fund. The National Hospital of Azaz, which had been evacuated last week because of proximity to frontlines, was hit and sustained major damage. The loss leaves more than 200,000 people without the services provided by these hospitals. In Idleb governorate, two NGO-supported hospitals were hit in Maarat al-Numan and one in Abu Duhoor. One of the hospitals in Maarat al-Numan was supported by MSF, and had a capacity of 30 beds, two operating theaters, an outpatient department and an emergency room with 54 staff working in it. It served a population of 40,000. MSF states that seven civilians, including a hospital guard, were killed while eight staff members are missing and presumed dead.
The hospital building sustained major damage and is now out of service. The two other hospitals in Idleb were struck with missiles that caused minor damage to infrastructure. In total, at least 26 people were reported killed (including six medical staff) in the incidents and 38 wounded (including nine medical staff), according to the Health Cluster.
Education Cluster partners report that education activities have almost stopped in northern rural Aleppo governorate as a result of shelling on approximately 30 villages and fighting in Azaz and Tall Refaat. The Education Cluster has received reports of damage to 13 schools in Haritan, Adnan, Kafr Hamra, Marrah Alarteeq, Yaqed, Bayanon, Hayan and Alermon towns in northern rural Aleppo and is currently verifying these reports.
Over 70,000 people have been displaced due to the current fighting, with thousands near the Turkish border, especially near the Bab al-Salam border crossing. Wounded civilians who cannot receive adequate treatment in Syria have crossed into Turkey.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.