Idlib massacres draw international outcry, truce remains elusive

Idlib is home to various rebel and jihadist factions fighting each other but the province also comes under attacks from regime forces and Russian air strikes.
Friday 22/11/2019
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) looks at the rubble of a building following a reported Russian airstrike on Marayan village in the north-western Idlib, november 22. (AFP)
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) looks at the rubble of a building following a reported Russian airstrike on Marayan village in the north-western Idlib, november 22. (AFP)

LONDON - The attacks by forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian air power, that killed scores of civilians in Idlib drew condemnation from the international community but highlighted the elusiveness of reaching a truce in the rebel-held province.

At least 21 civilians, including ten children, were killed in attacks November 20 that targeted a camp for displaced people near Qah and another hitting Maaret al-Numan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian state television reported November 21 that the government-controlled city of Aleppo came under attack from rocket fire from Idlib. Seven civilians were killed in the attack “carried out by terrorist groups,” it said.

Idlib is home to various rebel and jihadist factions who are fighting each other but the province also comes under frequent attacks from regime forces and Russian air strikes.

The Observatory said nearly 1,000 civilians were killed from May-August. The United Nations said more than 400,000 people were displaced during that period.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there had been “dozens of attacks against medical facilities and staff across Syria” this year.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said the United States was aiding 4 million people across northern Syria, including 2.7 million in Idlib.

“In the last two days there have been reports of more than 100 air strikes in Idlib and surrounding areas,” Lowcock said before the latest attack on Idlib.

The bloodshed in Qah camp for the displaced drew condemnation from the United Nations.

“I find it sickening that missiles hit vulnerable civilians, including elderly people, women and children sheltering in tents and makeshift shelters in a camp for internally displaced people,” said Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis. “This horrific incident needs to be fully investigated.”

The US State Department condemned the attack, especially as the camp’s medical facility is known to the Syrian regime.

“The location of (Qah Maternity Hospital) had been deconflicted via the United Nations in order to protect it from targeting. This horrific incident follows a well-documented pattern of vicious attacks on civilians and infrastructure by the Assad regime, with Russian and Iranian support,” read a release from the State Department.

“The Assad regime, enabled by its Russian and Iranian sponsors, must end its murderous campaign against the Syrian people and stop waging war in civilian areas. There can be no peaceful future in Syria without guarantees that those responsible for these brutal acts are held accountable.”

The attack was condemned by the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), a coalition of humanitarian, non-governmental and medical organisations from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey.

“Attacking one of the most densely packed [internally displaced persons] camps in Syria, full of children, is beyond sadistic. The internally displaced people in these camps had been forced to flee their homes and were now living in terrible conditions, many for years,” said UOSSM International Chairman Hussam Al Fakir.

“Can you imagine how difficult life is for families in these camps? To attack a refugee camp is cowardly and truly kicks civilians when they are down. The international community must hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes.”

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