ABU DHABI, 8th September 2018 (WAM) – The prospect of a major offensive on Idlib in Syria raises key concerns about the protection of civilians there and the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe, even as families have begun streaming out of their battered hometowns to seek safety elsewhere said the English language daily ‘Gulf Today’ in a commentary published today.
Major aid groups have cautioned what could be the last major battle of Syria’s seven-year civil war may also prove its deadliest.
Some three million people live in Idlib province and adjacent areas, as per United Nations, around half of whom have already fled their homes in other parts of Syria.
An entire generation of children have seen the worst of times in Syria, and more violence would have devastating consequences for Syria’s young.
According to UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, thousands of children in Idlib have been forced to leave their homes multiple times and are now living in overcrowded makeshift shelters, with food, water and medicine in dangerously short supply.
A fresh wave of violence could leave them trapped between fighting lines or caught in the crossfire, with potentially fatal consequences.
The UN peace envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has rightly stated that evacuation corridors should be immediately opened for civilians to flee. People should be granted safe passage to places of their own choosing if they prefer to leave.
Considering the dire situation prevailing in the area, there is a need for the opening of sufficient number of protected voluntary evacuation routes for civilians in any direction: east, north and south.
The fate of Idlib is important especially because its mainly civilian population has been displaced or evacuated from other conflict zones in the country during the more than seven-year war.
A major assault could overwhelm already struggling health facilities, cut off much-needed food and medical supplies to desperate civilians and prompt massive levels of displacement.
Hospitals in Idlib have been battered and residents are heavily dependent on aid. In fact, less than half of Idlib’s health facilities are still functioning. The remaining facilities are neither properly equipped nor prepared for a massive influx of patients.
In the past six months alone, a reported 500,000 people have arrived in Idlib after fleeing offensives in Deraa, eastern Ghouta and other areas.
The single greatest priority that remains for the world community is to avert further bloodshed in Idlib.
All parties should protect civilians, respect humanitarian principles and allow safe delivery of food by aid agencies to families in need.