UN says it fears 'bloodbath' in northwest Syria

Orient Net 2020-02-22 07:32:00

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The United Nations warned on Friday (February 21) that fighting in northwest Syria could “end in a bloodbath” and called again for a ceasefire.

The latest offensive in Aleppo and Idlib has uprooted nearly 1 million people - most of them women and children - who have fled clashes to seek sanctuary further north, near the Turkish border.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said 60% of the 900,000 people trapped in a shrinking space after fleeing are children.

“We call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further suffering and what we fear may end in a bloodbath,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told a news briefing in Geneva.

“The front lines and relentless violence continue to move closer to these areas which are packed with displaced people, with bombardments increasingly affecting displacement sites and their vicinity.”

At a university building in the town of Azaz in northwest Syria, people fleeing Idlib have poured in every day to shelter from the violence and bitter cold.

Souad Saleh, 58, is staying in a room with her family and dozens of other people. “We want to go back home but we can’t. We left things behind because the warplanes were above us and houses were collapsing,” she said.

The escape was exhausting. “Everyone was crying,” the grandmother recalled, bursting into tears.

Hayat al-Fayad, 50, said her village in Idlib had emptied out since her family ran from the bombing some two weeks ago. “The entire village fled,” she said.

Other families are sleeping outside by roads and in olive groves, burning garbage to stay warm. Some children have died from the cold, while some families have at least reached tent camps for displaced people.

Turkey, which currently hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, has said it cannot handle a new influx and has warned that it will use military power to repel Assad advances in Idlib and ease a humanitarian crisis.

Earlier on Friday, the Kremlin said it was discussing the possibility of holding the summit with Turkey, France and Germany mentioned by Erdogan.

The German and French leaders called Putin on Thursday to voice alarm about the humanitarian situation.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also held a phone call with Erdogan, who asked Paris and Berlin for concrete support in the crisis.

Based on Reuters

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