Turkey | Syria: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria (Idleb Governorate and Afrin District) (as of 07 February 2018)
• Hostilities in Idleb Governorate continue to cause casualties and displacement among civilians. Saraqab town and surrounding communities were affected the most during the reporting period, with reports indicating that most of the town’s population have displaced.
• Attacks on civilian infrastructure in Idleb Governorate continue with at least ten attacks on health care facilities reported between 29 January and 06 February. Schools, local markets, as well as water and sanitation infrastructure were reportedly also impacted by hostilities.
• The Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster tracked a total of 304,203 displacements (some might be secondary displacements) between 15 December and 29 January. Of the total, 272,861 displacements were tracked from southern rural Idleb to central and northern Idleb.
• In Afrin district, internal displacement from border communities to the central part of Afrin district continues. It is estimated that between 15,000 to 30,000 people have been displaced since 20 January; however, these figures are extremely difficult to verify due to the lack of a formal IDP tracking mechanism and the low presence of humanitarian organizations in the district.
1.1. Idleb Governorate:
The situation in Idleb Governorate remains extremely volatile with high levels of hostilities between Government of Syria (GoS) forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) being reported. Since late January, hostilities in Saraqab sub-district intensified significantly. While Saraqab sub-district was among the sub-districts that received the highest number of IDPs from southern rural Idleb and northern rural Hama during November and December, the sub-district itself is currently witnessing large displacements due to the ongoing hostilities. On 02 February, a local NGO attempted to send 10 vehicles to Saraqab town to evacuate the remaining civilians; however, it was unable to do so due to the continuous shelling of the roads. Nonetheless, one of the NGO’s teams managed to enter the town and distributed ready-to-eat rations to the remaining civilians, who have had very limited access to commodities in the past days due to the closure of the town’s markets and shops.
Reports of casualties due to the ongoing hostilities continue to emerge. On 30 January, local media sources reported the death of at least six people, following airstrikes on a market in Ariha town in southern rural Idleb. Additionally, one of Ariha town’s school was also reportedly damaged in the same attack. On 31 January, local media sources reported the death of a woman and her child after a rocket struck their home in Saraqab town.
On 01 February, local sources reported the death of four people, including a woman and a child, in airstrikes on Saraqab town. The town’s local council building was rendered out of service by hostilities. The council had earlier declared the town to be a disaster zone on 28 January, due to the heavy bombardment it has been witnessing. In northern rural Hama, eight people were reportedly killed in airstrikes on the town of Kafar Nabutha. In southern rural Aleppo, six people, including three children and a woman were reportedly killed in airstrikes on Abad village, while seven people, including three children and a woman, were reportedly killed in airstrikes on Jazraya village.
On 02 February, in eastern rural Idleb, airstrikes on Kafr Omeim town reportedly damaged the town’s water pumping station rendering it inoperable. As a result of this attack, around 18,000 people lost their access to potable water. In western rural Aleppo, a local NGO reported an airstrike on Kafar Aleppo village. The airstrike, which reportedly resulted in the death of two people and the wounding of others, struck an area that is 700 meters away from an NGO supported reception center. Several NGO-supported reception centers are present in north-western Syria and play a key role in providing assistance to internally displaced people.
On 03 February, the intensity of shelling increased significantly. Local sources reported ten fatalities in Khan Elsobol town after several ballistic missiles struck the town. Subsequently, the Khan Elsobol local council declared the town to be a disaster zone due to the extensive destruction in the town following weeks of bombardment. In Maasaran town, barrel bombs reportedly resulted in seven deaths, and airstrikes on Saraqab town reportedly resulted in six.
On 04 February, aerial bombardment of Kafar Nobol town reportedly resulted in the death of five people and the wounding of 40, including the head of the Hama Education Directorate. On the same day, a medical NGO that supports a hospital in Idleb Governorate reported receiving 17 suffocation cases, due to a suspected chlorine attack on Saraqab town. The UN is not in a position, however, to verify the nature of the attacks. Airstrikes on Idleb city reportedly destroyed a multiple story building resulting in the death of 12 people and the wounding of many more, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).
On 05 February, local sources reported that bombs suspected to contain napalm struck Heish village in southern rural Idleb. The strikes damaged two schools, of which one was rendered inoperable, according to local sources.
Local media reported that airstrikes killed eight people and injured many others in Idleb city and that a blood bank was destroyed by airstrikes on Saraqab city. Moreover, many civilians were reportedly injured by shelling on Atma IDPs border camp.
Due to the worsening security situation in Idleb Governorate, the Idleb Education Directorate suspended education activities in all facilities in the governorate between 05 and 07 February, with possibility of extending the suspension in case the security situation in the governorate does not improve. Education activities in the governorate has witnessed repeated interruptions due to the ongoing hostilities in the past two months.
Attacks on health facilities in Idleb Governorate continued with an alarming frequency. Between 29 January and 06 February at least nine attacks on medical facilities were reported. A hospital in Saraqab town was impacted by an airstrike for the fourth time in 10 days, on 29 January. Three medical staff were injured, while two patients and one child were killed. As a result of the attack, the hospital went out of service. On a monthly basis, the hospital was providing an average of 5,000 consultations and 320 surgeries. On 30 January, an NGO-supported primary health care center in Saraqab sub district sustained structural damage from an airstrike. The PHC, which was closed temporarily, provided an average of 3,000 consultations monthly. On 01 February, a hospital in Kafr Zeita sub-district was impacted by five airstrikes, which caused significant structural damage. Monthly, the hospital provided an average of 1,600 consultations, 140 admissions, 60 major surgeries and 50 war related trauma treatments.
On 04 February, a medical NGO as well as the Idleb Health Directorate reported that several airstrikes struck the National Hospital in Ma’arrat An Nu’man town, resulting in significant damage to the emergency and incubator departments as well as the intensive care unit. Following the attack, infants in the incubator section of the hospital had to be evacuated to other medical facilities in the governorate. On the same day, an NGO-supported primary health care facility in Saraqab sub-district sustained structural damage from an airstrike. The center, which suspended operations temporarily following the attack, was providing an average of 4,500 consultations on a monthly basis. In Ma’arrat An Nu’man sub-district, two ambulances were partially damaged by airstrikes on 04 February.
On 05 February, at least four rockets reportedly struck the Surgical Hospital in Kafar Nobol town, rendering the hospital out of service. Initial report showed that one technician was wounded. On the same day, local sources reported that a primary health care center in Mardikh village was rendered out of service reportedly by airstrikes.
Finally, on 06 February, local sources in Idleb Governorate reported that a hospital in Tramla village sustained significant damage in an aerial attack.
1.2. Afrin district:
Information flow on the humanitarian situation coming out of Afrin district remains limited due to the ongoing internet outage. According to sources in the district, displacement from the border communities to Afrin town continues.
Reportedly, most houses in Afrin town are hosting several families. Schools, mosques and public buildings were opened to host the new arrivals. The main needs of the IDPs include food baskets, mattresses, blankets, baby formula and medicine. Education activities in the district are currently suspended. This suspension has impacted an estimated 8,000 intermediate/secondary level students from 50 schools and some 40,000 primary level students in 260 schools in Afrin.
On 04 February, local sources in A’zaz sub-district reported that several shells landed in a vacant land between AlResala and Al-Rayan camps, to the east of Azaz town, with no casualties reported. On 03 February, four shells struck a local market in Azaz town which reportedly resulted in the wounding of nine people. On the same day, the Azaz Education Directorate suspended education activities in the town until the beginning of next week, pending further assessment of the security situation. On 5 February, shelling on Azaz city reportedly hit a vehicle carrying civilians, killing one child and injuring six people who were reportedly transferred to hospitals in Turkey for treatment.