Syria violence at most 'intense level' since East Aleppo

Civilians in line of fire: Syria violence at most 'intense level' since East Aleppo battle
3 min read
05 October, 2017
Multiple regions across Syria are experiencing the most intense fighting in the six-year war since the battle for East Aleppo in 2016, the ICRC said on Thursday.
September was the deadliest month in the Syrian war so far in 2017 [Getty]
Multiple regions across Syria are experiencing the most intense fighting in the six-year war since the battle for East Aleppo in 2016, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

More than 3,000 people, including 955 civilians, were killed in September making it the deadliest month so far in 2017, monitoring groups say.

The majority of civilians were killed in Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes, or aerial attacks by the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

"For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties," Marianne Gasser, the head of ICRC's delegation in Syria, said.

The fighting is not only taking place in Raqqa, Deir az-Zour, and western rural Aleppo but also in areas located in the so-called "de-escalation zones" in Idlib, Hama, and Eastern Ghouta.

"Taken together, these are the worst levels of violence since the battle for Aleppo in 2016," the ICRC said in a statement.

At least ten hospitals have been damaged in the past ten days alone, mostly in Russian and Syrian airstrikes targeting Idlib, cutting off healthcare to over 500,000 Syrian civilians, according to the ICRC.

Fighting in the north-eastern city of Deir az-Zour, meanwhile, is endangering water sources for tens of thousands of civilians.

"What we have seen with a lot of concern is a resumption of hostilities in regions which were recently calm," ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet told The New Arab.

"We see civilians in the line of fire and civilian infrastructure in the line of fire".

We see civilians in the line of fire and civilian infrastructure in the line of fire

Internal displacement

The spike in violence, which has caused widespread damage to infrastructure and killed hundreds, has also led to a huge increase in internally displaced people fleeing the fighting.

A Russian airstrike on Wednesday killed at least 38 civilians as they attempted to cross the Euphrates River to escape fighting in eastern Syria's Deir az-Zour region.

ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet told The New Arab that one family of 13 lost ten family members as they fled, falling victim to airstrikes and improvised explosive devices lining the route.

"People flee in horrendous conditions and are caught up in the cross-fire. They go through the desert, are wounded, and have no food or water until they reach a camp, where resources are limited," she said.

One such makeshift camp for internally displaced families, Areesha, has witnessed a huge influx in recent weeks due to the intensity of fighting.

"Two weeks ago there were 4,200 internally displaced persons in the camp," Jaquemet told The New Arab. "Two days ago there were 17,000 people".

Other camps around Raqqa and Deir az-Zour are receiving over 1,000 people every day, with humanitarian organisations struggling to provide food and water to the new arrivals.

"Winning by any means is not only unlawful, but also unacceptable when it comes at such human cost," ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, Robert Mardini, said in a statement.

"We call once again on all those fighting in Syria to show restraint, and to abide by the basic tenets of International humanitarian law."