Damascus to let civilians flee rebel-held Idlib
Damascus on Thursday said it will open a corridor for civilians to leave rebel-held Idlib and northern Hama provinces in Syria, where regime and Russian bombardment has killed hundreds of people in the past four months.
The United Nations warned on Wednesday that continuing attacks on the area were putting the lives of three million Syrians at risk, as local organizations said that Idlib province faced “mass annihilation”.
Idlib and nearby areas of Hama and Aleppo provinces in northwestern Syria form the last rebel stronghold in Syria. Three other major rebel strongholds were captured by the regime last year.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a press conference in New York that UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres “is deeply troubled by the continued escalation in north-west Syria and the prospect of an offensive deeper into Idlib”.
He added that the offensive “could trigger a new wave of human suffering possibly impacting more than 3 million people.”
Damascus said “the Syrian government announces the opening of a humanitarian corridor in Souran in the northern countryside of Hama province”.
The corridor will be used to evacuate “civilians who want to leave areas controlled by terrorists in northern Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib.”
The regime habitually refers to all the rebels opposing it as terrorists. Similarly, it has also announced the opening of humanitarian corridors during previous sieges of opposition-held areas.
However, civilians have been afraid to use them, fearing arrest, torture, and even death if they were to enter. The Syrian regime has detained people with a history of opposing it before, after capturing rebel-held areas.
The UN warning and the regime announcement came as the key town of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib province, which was the site of a 2017 regime chemical weapons attack, was overrun by Assad regime forces and Russian airstrikes put a hospital in the town of Talmannis in southern Idlib out of action.
The Syrian news website Enab Baladi reported that one person had been killed and several injured in the hospital airstrike, while at least five more people had been killed in further airstrikes around the city of Maaret al Numan.
The UN has recorded at least 25 attacks on hospitals and 45 attacks on schools in Idlib province since the beginning of the assault on the rebel-held area in April 2019.
At least 800 people, including 200 children have been killed since the regime offensive against Idlib began, according to the UK charity Save the Children.
More than 450,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the offensive, with many forced to take shelter in woods and olive groves due to overpopulated refugee camps.
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