The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Tens of thousands flee Syria regime advance near Aleppo Open in fullscreen

The New Arab & agencies

Tens of thousands flee Syria regime advance near Aleppo

The situation has been described as 'catastrophic' [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 5 February, 2016

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
A major Russian-backed offensive around the northern city has forced up to 70,000 Syrians to flee towards Turkey as diplomatic tensions rise between Ankara and Moscow.
Tens of thousands of Syrians were heading towards Turkey on Friday as regime troops pressed forward on a major Russian-backed offensive around Aleppo, while Moscow and Ankara traded barbs over the escalating crisis.

Up to 70,000 people were heading towards Turkey to escape the fighting, said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking at a conference in London where donors pledged more than $10 billion in aid for Syrians.

Some 300,000 people are thought to be isolated in the Aleppo area after the rebels' main supply route was severed by regime forces, backed by Russian jets, in an offensive that scuppered peace talks this week.

The UN Security Council will meet on Friday for consultations with envoy Staffan de Mistura over the breakdown of the negotiations, which had been hailed as the biggest diplomatic push to end Syria's five-year war. Talks have been suspended until 25 February.

"The situation in the north countryside of Aleppo is catastrophic," said Maamoun al-Khateeb, an activist and journalist from nearby Marea village.

"Civilians are now besieged on three sides and have just one road to the Turkish territories," he said. Regime forces threatened from the south, Islamic State group fighters were at the district's east and Kurdish fighters are to the west, he added.

As the offensive rages, diplomatic tensions are also rising, with Moscow accusing opposition supporter Ankara of preparing to invade Syria, saying it had spotted troops and military equipment on the border.
Western nations accused Syria's government of torpedoing peace talks this week with its military offensive.


Hours earlier, Davutoglu had accused supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, which include Russia, of "committing the same war crimes" as the regime.

Western nations accused Syria's government of torpedoing peace talks this week with its military offensive, and Washington demanded Moscow halt its campaign in support of Assad.

Read more on the Russia-Turkey crisis over Syria
- NATO calls extraordinary meeting after Turkey downs Russian jet
- Russia jet in Turkish airspace 'was not the first'
- What was Russia's airforce doing near Turkey's borders anyway?
- Who are the Turkmen?
- Comment: Showdown on the Syrian border


Russian bombings killed at least 21 civilians, including three children, on Thursday, according to Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Last week at least 44 civilians were killed in suspected Russian air raids in areas of northern and eastern Syria under the control of the Islamic State group.

In London for the donors conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he had warned Moscow to stop targeting the Syrian opposition, in a "robust" phone call with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

'Waiting at the door'

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which backs opponents of the regime, said it was ready to join any ground operation by the US-led coalition against IS in Syria.

More than 260,000 people have died in Syria's conflict and more than half the country's population have been forced from their homes, while the chaos has helped to fuel the rise of extremist groups such as IS across the region.

The World Bank on Thursday estimated the war has so far cost Syria and its neighbours - Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt - some $35 billion. Measured by 2007 prices, that is the equivalent of Syria's entire economic output that year.

The World Bank on Thursday estimated the war has cost Syria and its neighbours - Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt - some $35 billion.


Aleppo city, Syria's former economic powerhouse, has been divided between opposition control in the east and regime forces in the west since mid-2012.

But the rebels' main supply line to Turkey was severed on Wednesday, when regime troops broke an opposition siege of two Shia towns, Nubol and Zahraa, on the route to the border.

Regime forces entered the two towns on Thursday to the cheers of residents, who chanted pro-government slogans and showered the fighters with rice.

But elsewhere in the region the advance prompted tens of thousands to flee for fear of being caught up in the fighting.

Davutoglu said 60,000 to 70,000 people were "moving towards Turkey" and 10,000 were "waiting at the door" on the border because of airstrikes and attacks around Aleppo.

The Observatory said nearly 40,000 people in Aleppo province had fled their homes, with many massing at the border.

A high-ranking Syrian government official described the Aleppo advances as important, but said the regime had even more ambitious goals.

"The next objectives are to close the borders with Turkey to prevent the arrival of troops and weapons, then taking Aleppo province, then Idlib province, and finally Idlib city," he said.

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More