Human Rights

Calls for protection of civilians amid military escalation in northern Syria

Syria

Syria - The regime's bombardment of areas in Hama and Idlib has been met by international criticism as it could threaten the region with a new humanitarian crisis.

The Syrian and Russian air forces continue to shell Idlib and Hama Provinces in northwest Syria, despite the enactment of a demilitarisation zone (DMZ) in the Greater Idlib Region.

According to the Syrian Regime, however, the DMZ does not protect Opposition factions such as the former al-Qaeda affiliated-Hay’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is being used as the justification for what has been described as the heaviest bombardment on the region in over a year.

In response, HTS began firing missiles at a Russian military base in Idlib triggering violent clashes between the Syrian forces and the militant group, resulting in 43 people dead.

“The gatherings of the militants were shelled along with fire, artillery, air, and land back up,” said a member of the Syrian forces. “We also managed to destroy their frontal fortifications.”

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the clashes have left dozens of people dead and forcefully evacuated many citizens from the homes in the southern countryside of Idlib.

This has brought the number of those displaced by the clashes in Idlib and Hama to exceed 150,000 people, according to the France-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM).

While the tensions between the Syrian forces and the militants in Idlib have been ongoing for some time, the UN recently stated that the past few months had seen the most shelling and skirmishes between the clashing sides.

As a result, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the French President Emmanuel Macron have expressed their concern over the recent escalation, saying it will threaten a new humanitarian crisis in the region. In their press conference, Guterres and Macron also called upon the clashing sides to abide by the ceasefire that was mediated by the international actors.

While these calls have fallen on deaf ears, activists inside the country say that the Assad Regime will not cease operations on Idlib and Hama until he gains control of these areas, which are currently held by the Opposition.

Since this option remains fraught with difficulties and regional complexities, activists say that this recent push by the Regime on Idlib and Hama is an attempt to gain control over strategic highways vital for his Government’s economy.

Whatever the reason may be, the operations have threatened the lives of thousands of families currently living in Idlib and Hama. If these operations were to escalate further, a humanitarian crisis is likely to arise once again.