UN official expresses concern over ‘very worrying’ situation in Syria’s Idlib region

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 (APP):A senior United Nations humanitarian official has condemned attacks on civilians and health facilities in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone.

Speaking at a news conference in Geneva on Thursday after a meeting of an international Humanitarian Task Force (HTF) for Syria, UN Senior Humanitarian Advisor Najat Rochdi said at least 100 civilians lost their lives or were injured in recent attacks in the northwestern Idlib province.

“The recent uptick in violence has caused death and destruction with reports of more than 180,000 people fled their homes towards areas they consider safer, away from the violence,” Rochdi said.

Medical facilities and health services have been hard hit in the recent increase in airstrikes and shelling, she said, adding there are reports that 18 facilities have been hit in Hama, Idlib and Aleppo provinces since April 28.

“In line with international humanitarian law, medical units must always be respected and protected and should not be the object of attacks,” she said, referring to killing of health workers and targeting medical facilities.

Rochdi noted there are nearly 3 million people in Idlib, 2.1 million already need humanitarian support and 1.4 million people have been displaced at least once.

“With this bombing and airstrikes the same people are displaced a second time, a third time, a fourth time,” she went on to say.

“Aerial bombardment, including the reported use of barrel bombs causing severe damage to civilian infrastructures and civilian casualties is a war practice which goes against every single humanitarian principle,” the advisor said.

Rochdi stressed that, protection and the duty to protect is a collective responsibility, it is not only the responsibility of the humanitarians.

“People fleeing because of fear and because of bombing is their cruel daily reality,” she said. “But now, if the bombing is continuing where do you want them to flee? They already fled there as the last resort…Where is it that they will be able to go?”

Rochdi reiterated the HFT’s call for “an urgent de-escalation” of fighting in Idlib, and for the warring parties to recommit to the ceasefire agreement; in particular Russia and Turkey.

Of the approximately three million people living in Idlib, one million are children. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk because of the ongoing fighting, which has left tens of thousands of youngsters out of school and families sheltering under trees, the UN official explained.

“The insecurity there and the continuing airstrikes, is not something that is conducive really, to deliver humanitarian assistance,” she said. “And as you know, some NGOs, about 12, have suspended temporarily their assistance.”