UN chief calls for immediate ceasefire in Idlib

UN chief calls for 'immediate cessation of hostilities' amid deadly violence
3 min read
02 February, 2020
The UN Secretary-General has called for an immediate ceasefire in northwestern Syria, as Al-Qaeda affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched a rare suicide attack on pro-Syrian forces in Aleppo.
A spokesman for the Security-General called attacks on civilian infrastructure 'unacceptable' [Getty]
UN Secretary Antonio Guiterres called for an immediate ceasefire in war-stricken northwestern Syria on Saturday, as insurgents launched a rare fightback against pro-government forces in the city of Aleppo.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), over 205 pro-government fighters and 220 anti-regime combatants have been killed in fighting in the past week.

A total of nearly 100 have been killed from both sides in the past 24 hours alone, the war monitor also report.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the ongoing military escalation in northwest Syria and calls for an immediate cessation of hostillities", a spokesman for the Secretary-General said. 

The jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham staged three suicide car bomb attacks in the Jamiyat al-Zahraa area on the outskirts of Aleppo, which has been under government control since its recapture from rebel forces in 2016.

Read more: Car bomb attacks in Aleppo target Syrian regime forces amid fierce offensive

However, state run Syrian news agency SANA offered a conflicting version of events, reported that pro-regime troops had destroyed the car bombs before they reached their intended target, using of artillery and rocket fire. 

Turkish-backed rebels attacked government-held positions near the city of al-Bab, according to SOHR reports.

The northwest corner of Syria, which includes Idlib province and adjoining area of Aleppo, consitute the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, where Assad has secured most of the ground once held by various opposition groups. 

Since April last year, the regime's campaign of constant bombardment, supported by Russian airpower, has aimed to recapture what remains of the region.

This is despite a joint Turkish-Russian brokered deal in September 2018 to establish the area as a "de-escalation zone".

The weekend's clashes follow the seizure of the region's strategic town of Maarat al-Numan on Wednesday, part of a two-week offensive to secure the M5 highway which links the country's capital with Allepo.

Syria's Russian backed forces are now advancing onto the deserted town of Saraqeb, located north of Maaret al-Numan, part of the final push into Idlib.

Guterres' spokesman called attacks on civillians and infrastructure "unacceptable" amid report of missile attacks on a Whitle Helmet building, a school and a main market, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

Most of Saraqeb's 110,000 residents have now fled north towards neighbouring Turkey, which already hosts nearly 3.5 million refugees.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogran warned on Friday that Ankara could use military force to stabillise the northwestern region, which is home to three million civillians, most of whom are displaced from other regions of Syria. 

Agencies contributed to this report.
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