MORE than 235,000 people have fled the rebel-held region of Idlib, in Syria, in the past week, after air raids by Russian and Syrian government forces. At least 24 civilians were killed in the strikes.
The United Nations reported this week that the assault and consequent displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents over the Christmas period had left Idlib “almost empty”. A spokesperson said: “With the latest escalation of violence in north-west Syria, civilians in Idlib governorate are again suffering from the devastating consequences of hostilities.
“Many who fled are in urgent need of humanitarian support, particularly shelter, food, health, non-food and [winter] assistance.” Thousands more families were “frightened to move, fearing the risk of air strikes and shelling along the routes”.
A partner of Christian Aid, based in southern Turkey and operating in the Idlib governorate, reported last week: “History is repeating itself — today is a black winter again as we are watching the people being shelled by the regime, and they have been left alone.”
The need for basic shelter, food, and heating is “enormous”, it reported. Little or no aid is being received in the region. Staff on the ground are using their own salaries to buy much-needed provisions for the displaced, it said. “The rest of the world has left the Syrians to be killed and to die by the bombs of the regime and the cold weather.”
Christian Aid has joined the UN and other aid agencies in calling for an immediate ceasefire, and for full humanitarian access to support the hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals who are “facing days of freezing temperatures, rain, and snow without a roof over their heads”.
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said on Sunday: “The Syrian people have already been subjected to too much conflict, and far too much bloodshed, destruction, and displacement. The Churches of the world demand an end to it — an end to the suffering of the people. Enough fighting, chaos, and death.
“It is time for peace, for respite, for dialogue, and for justice for the victims of atrocities perpetrated through these catastrophic years of violence.”