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EU imposes new sanctions on 'Assad backers' as millions are displaced amid brutal Aleppo offensive

Millions have been displaced [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 February, 2020

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The European Union has imposed sanctions on eight people in an effort to put pressure on Bashar Al-Assad's regime, which has displaced millions.
The EU has imposed new sanctions on eight businesspeople and two “entities” who have helped prop up the brutal Syrian regime, a new government report confirms.

This brings the total numbers listed under EU Syria sanctions to 278 people and 71 entities, which include businesses.

“Syria’s appalling regime has unleashed unimaginable suffering upon its own people,” says Minister for the Middle East & North Africa James Cleverly.

“The UK continues to work closely with European partners to sanction those profiting from the devastating Syrian war.”

He added: “We will also continue to champion the international rules that keep us safe, and which the Assad regime – and its Russian allies – seeks to undermine.”

Read More: Syria Weekly: Banking on Lebanon not paying off for Damascus

The sanctions target those who have profited from the conflict in Syria. Some have been sanctioned for their involvement in smuggling and money laundering, while others have allegedly engaged in deals with UN-listed terrorist entities.

The sanctions send a message to backers of the Syrian regime: those who profit from the conflict will be held accountable, and the rights of the millions of citizens who have been displaced will be respected, analysts say. 

Almost one million displaced since December

The move comes amid a Russian-backed regime offensive in northwest Syria that has displaced 900,000 people since the start of December, the UN said on Monday.

That figure is 100,000 more than the United Nations had previously recorded.

"The crisis in northwest Syria has reached a horrifying new level," said Mark Lowcock, the UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

He said the displaced were overwhelmingly women and children who are "traumatised and forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures because camps are full.

"Mothers burn plastic to keep children warm. Babies and small children are dying because of the cold."

The Idlib region, including parts of neighbouring Aleppo province, is home to some three million people, half of whom have already been displaced from other parts of the country.

The offensive that began late last year has caused the biggest single displacement of people since the conflict began in 2011.

The war has killed more than 500,000 people since it erupted almost nine years ago, following the brutal repression of popular demonstrations demanding regime change.

Lowcock warned on Monday that the violence in the northwest was "indiscriminate".

"Health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets have been hit. Schools are suspended, many health facilities have closed.

"There is a serious risk of disease outbreaks. Basic infrastructure is falling apart," he said in a statement.

"We are now receiving reports that settlements for displaced people are being hit, resulting in deaths, injuries and further displacement."

He said that a massive relief operation underway from the Turkish border is has been "overwhelmed. The equipment and facilities being used by aid workers are being damaged. Humanitarian workers themselves are being displaced and killed."

US President Donald Trump on Sunday called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime's "atrocities" in the Idlib region, the White House said.

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