Syria: Conflict in Idlib and Afrin displacing thousands


Tens of thousands of people in northwestern Syria have been forced from their homes, as fighting rages and intensifies between various factions.

In Idlib Province, fighting between the Syrian Regime and Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), along with other rebel groups, has caused mass displacement of people. This includes both internally within Idlib, as well as to other provinces or even across the border into Turkey.

While the fighting slowed down last week, it has resumed with considerable furore as the regime forces look to move towards the city of Saraqib, which is located east of Idlib City.

Furthermore, the resulting fighting between these factions has caused ISIS militants to regain a foothold in the province. While this foothold is minor and largely signifies control over empty villages, it is a worrying reminder that the group is ready and willing to exploit any security vacuum to its advantage.

In Afrin, which in located in Aleppo Province on the border with Turkey, Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels are clashing with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Thus far, clashes have been mostly reported on the border points of Afrin. While both sides have inflated casualties of the other, civilian deaths are on a worrying upward trend.

For those who have been displaced, poorly-equipped camps await. Furthermore, the harsh winter conditions are amplifying the suffering of many displaced people. In Idlib Province, heavy rains created treacherous conditions for IDPs, with tents flooded and what little possessions people owned destroyed.

“Water entered from here and the children got wet. We couldn’t sleep all night as the tents fell on us,” said one man. “Where are the aid organisations? We haven’t seen any aid organisation. The children didn’t sleep all night because of the water”.

Amidst these conditions, the UN has called for a halt to violence in Syria and the entry of aid to areas in dire need of support. However, given the stalled nature of numerous peace processes and the continuation of fighting, these calls are currently falling on deaf ears.