Renewed violence in rebel-held northwestern Syria has killed dozens of civilians and forced 150,000 people into flight in one week alone, leading to fears of a government offensive that humanitarians have long warned could lead to catastrophe.
UN-linked aid groups have suspended activities in parts of violence-plagued northwestern Syria, where escalating bombardments by the government and Russia are jeopardising the safety of humanitarian workers.
In fact, France has warned that escalating violence in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province will lead to a new humanitarian catastrophe as thousands continue to be displaced in the rebel-held area.
French UN ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters on Friday ahead of a closed UN Security Council meeting that it was important to avert a brutal takeover of the province by government forces. “A new Aleppo must at all cost be prevented in Idlib,” said Delattre. The warning comes as the Syrian government ramps up its campaign to take control of the province.
We need to send a very clear message to all those who might be tempted by an escalation in Idlib,” Delattre said.
“If it happens, then you will have a humanitarian catastrophe there – it’s written – and on top of it you will destroy the perspective of a political process that we all want to give a boost to.”
Belgium, Germany and Kuwait, three non-permanent council members, requested the urgent meeting after hospitals and schools were hit by strikes. More than 150,000 people have been displaced in one week alone.
The three countries are leading the council’s efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, now in its ninth year of war.
Since 29 April, 12 health facilities, including two major hospitals, have been hit in northwest Syria, according to the World Health Organisation.
“As of May 8, at least 16 humanitarian partners have suspended their operations in areas impacted by conflict,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said on Friday.
The World Food Programme [WFP] said it has suspended “deliveries to about 47,000 people in towns and villages … [that] have come under bombardment”.