Warnings of humanitarian crisis in Syria as a quarter of a million flee Russian-backed offensive in Idlib
The United Nations says refugee agencies in north-west Syria are being overwhelmed as almost a quarter of a million people flee a fresh bout of fighting.
After weeks of intense bombardment, Syrian government troops backed by Russian forces recently launched a ground offensive against rebel-held areas in the south and east of Idlib province.
The UN said 235,000 civilians had fled the fighting between December 12 and 25, and warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.
Idlib, the last major region held by rebels hostile to the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is home to 3 million civilians.
“With the latest escalation of violence in northwest Syria, civilians in Idlib governorate are again suffering from the devastating consequences of hostilities,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA said in a statement.
Most people had fled the city of Maarat al-Numan, towns and villages in southern Idlib province, Idlib city, and camps along the Syrian-Turkish border, OCHA said.
One man who fled to the border with his family from the town of Telmanas accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to, “kill every Syrian who opposes the regime”.
Moscow and Damascus deny claims of indiscriminate bombing of civilians, saying they are fighting jihadist militants.
Rescue services and witnesses say hostilities have left many towns in ruins and knocked out dozens of medical centres.
US President Donald Trump has spoken out against the “carnage” involving thousands of civilians.
“Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage,” Mr Trump said on Twitter on Thursday.