By Bayram Altug
GENEVA (AA) – Hundreds of thousands of Syrians had to take refuge in camps near Turkish border due to rising clashes in northwestern Syria since April, a UN agency said on Tuesday.
“North-western Syria has seen a dramatic escalation of conflict since late April affecting northern Hama, southern Idlib and western Aleppo governorates,” the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN’s food-assistance branch, said in a statement.
“The situation has forced more than 300,000 people to flee; most heading towards the IDP [internally displaced person] camps in northern Idlib governorate close to the Turkish border,” the statement said.
It also noted that the surge in violence also interrupted WFP operations in several areas — especially in southern parts of Idlib — and authorities have been unable to reach some 7,000 people in the Madiq castle area in northern Hama governorate since May.
“Worryingly, agriculture has also been severely impacted, with satellite-based assessments indicating that at least 18,000 acres of farmland has been burnt in recent weeks,” it added.
– Situation in Idlib de-escalation zone
Idlib, population of which has reached four million with internal migration, is under the control of opposition since March 2015. Idlib has been intensely targeted by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.
The Assad regime forces, however, has consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.
Civil-defense sources reported that at least 231 civilians, including 59 children, have been killed and 659 others injured in attacks by the regime, Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups and Russia in May alone.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.
*Writing by Sena Guler