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Hundreds of Idlib refugees return home for Ramadan amid Assad's continued ceasefire violations Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Hundreds of Idlib refugees return home for Ramadan amid Assad's continued ceasefire violations

Many fear the havoc the new coronavirus could wreak on camps near Turkey [Getty],

Date of publication: 24 April, 2020

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About one million Syrians fled Idlib and its surrounding countryside after Russian-backed government forces stepped up a campaign to retake the last rebel stronghold after nine years of war.
Hundreds of Syrian refugees displaced from villages in the war-ravaged province of Idlib have returned to their former homes at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, despite continued violations of a jointly-brokered Turkish and Russian ceasefire by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Refugee families returned from camps near the northern Turkish border to four regions, including the Jabal al-Zawiya area of Idlib, as well as western Aleppo countryside, according to a local correspondent for The New Arab’s Arabic-language service, who said they came in vehicles loaded with the same possessions they had fled with.

According to latest figures released by the Syrian Response Coordination Group (SRCG), a northwest Syria relief agency, some 180,000 Syrians have returned to towns in the Aleppo and Idlib countryside since fighting calmed when Ankara, which backs groups fighting forces loyal to Assad, agreed a ceasefire with Moscow, which has supported Damascus with heavy air power.

For some, the return has been driven by fears of the havoc the new coronavirus could wreak on crowded camps near the Turkish border, while dire economic hardship following years of war have crippled their ability to sustain their life in displacement for many, forcing them to return to the volatile province.

About one million Syrians fled Idlib and its surrounding countryside this past year after Russian-backed government forces stepped up a campaign to retake the last rebel stronghold following nine years of war.

Despite the deal to end the bloodshed, which includes joint Turkish-Russian military patrols along a strategic highway connecting Idlib to Aleppo and the regime stronghold of Latakia, violations continue to occur on an almost daily.

Early on Friday, local sources told The New Arab that regime strikes had been reported in two villages in the northern Idlib countryside. According to the SRCG, Assad's forces have pummelled at least 58 separate areas in the province with rockets and mortar shells since the signing of the ceasefire on March 5.

While most of the violations have not resulted in casualties, local activists say that two civilians have died, including a child.

Read also: Violet Organisation: The Syrian NGO battling coronavirus in Idlib

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