130000 displaced from Idlib as Syrian Army attacks last rebel-held enclave
130000 displaced from Idlib as Syrian Army attacks last rebel-held enclave
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters
11 January, 2018, 22:17
Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not confirm claims posted on some websites about destroyed airplanes in the Russia-operated Hmeimim air base in Syria on New Year's Eve but on January 5, Russian officials did say two soldiers had been killed in a rocket attack.
Since losing the airbase in 2015 following a two-year jihadist siege, the Syrian government has only had control of two villages in Idlib province: Fua and Kafraya. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million have been forced from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Turkey has accused the Syrian government of using the presence of the Nusra Front, which now fights under the banner of the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, as an excuse to attack civilians and moderate opposition groups.
The regime's goal is to retake the southeast of the province in order to secure a route between Damascus and second city Aleppo, both under its control, according to the Observatory.
The UN's humanitarian coordination office OCHA said on Wednesday that the situation in Idlib was "extremely chaotic", with newly displaced people reportedly scattered across open areas.
"Due to the large numbers of people moving, many are left with no shelter, which could expose them to various risks, especially as the winter temperatures continue to drop", it added.
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The International Rescue Committee said it had received hundreds of people newly displaced from the latest fighting in Idlib, many of them housed in makeshift tents.
"This isn't a simple air strike, the regime is advancing into Idlib".
"We couldn't think properly".
The recent surge in the violence - taking place just weeks before Russia's proposed "Sochi" conference - has caused a mass exodus of Syrian civilians, with an estimated 113,000 Syrians fleeing Idlib in recent weeks.
Cavusoglu's ministry summoned the Iranian and Russian ambassadors on Tuesday to complain about violations of the Idlib de-escalation zone, and he said President Tayyip Erdogan might call Russia's Vladimir Putin on the issue. He also said Turkey had kept its promises in the ceasefire deal for Idlib but that Damascus should not hide behind Russian Federation and Iran to launch attacks.
In a statement from the Syrian presidency Thursday, Assad said the "major victories of the army in cooperation with Russian Federation and its other allies. have strengthened efforts for a peaceful solution" to the conflict.
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