More than 100 people have been killed by Syrian regime airstrikes in northwestern Syria since June, as increased violence in the country resulted in the largest displacement recorded since March 2020.
After a period of ‘relative calm’, the Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes intensified in Northwest and Southwest Syria in the past few months, triggering another round of internal displacement, according to the United Nations.
“We have very regrettably seen an escalation in many parts of Syria recently,” UN’s special envoy for Syria, Geir O Pedersen said during a security council briefing on Syria on August 24.
“These developments remind us that the conflict in Syria is far from over,” Pedersen stated. “…We need a credible political process as well as more sustained international cooperation.”
The Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets, and UNICEF also highlighted the increasing hostilities.
At least 123 people, including 45 children and 20 women, have been killed by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia in the past three months northwestern Syria, a member of the Syrian Civil Defence told TRT World.
At least 108 people have been killed in the months before June, the group said.
Daraa al Balad
The most recent wave of fighting and bloodshed focused on two areas, Daraa al Balad in Southwest, and Idlib in Northwest Syria.
Daraa al Balad witnessed a heavy regime offensive that started on May 31 this year.
Fifty opposition forces and their families left the southern Syrian city of Daraa Thursday under a Russian-brokered truce aimed at ending the region’s worst fighting in years, a monitor said.
“We have seen significant deployments of troops, heavy shelling, and ground clashes. We have seen civilian casualties and displacement – including a significant number of women and children – and damage to civilian infrastructure,” Pedersen said in his earlier statement on August 24. At least 23 people were killed by the airstrikes.
The case of Daraa, known as the “birthplace of revolution”, is a complex one compared to other areas where rebels live. Under a reconciliation deal brokered by Russia in 2018, rebels were allowed to stay in the southern part of the river on the condition of giving up heavy weapons.
Russia this time demanded light-arms, a reference to weapons that don’t involve fire or explosions, to be put down. As the regime is eyeing full control of the town, stepping up airstrikes, the activists previously told TRT World that if the activists accepted the offer it would be seen as a complete surrender to the regime. Between July 24 and 28, the fighting resumed for a brief period. The rebels, the regime, and allied forces exchanged gunfire and shelling that continued until the recent Russian-brokered deal.
At least 24,000 of the 56,000 population, including Palestinian refugees who once resided in the area, have been displaced as a result of fighting. They have fled to Northwestern Syria, another enclave that is being bombed by the Syrian regime and Russia.
While the people flee Daraa to escape the airstrikes and take refuge in Northwestern Syria, the regime is taking the war there, causing further displacement. In July alone, “the largest displacement” was recorded since March 2020, according to the UN.
A cease-fire deal brokered in March 2020 by Turkey and the regime’s ally Russia has been credited for preventing any large-scale regime offensive. The Response Coordination Group however documented 791 violations since June. The bombings have resulted in heavy losses in the region, and destroyed public infrastructure. More than 32,000 people fled towards Jarablus, Raju and Dana Sub-Districts.
Nineteen service and medical facilities, camps and schools were reportedly affected by airstrikes in July, UNICEF said.
An estimated four million people live in Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold. A final showdown in the area would mean a further catastrophic humanitarian crisis with more and more people fleeing to the border to escape from relentless airstrikes.