UN calls for protection of civilians in NW Syria

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Kevin Kennedy, regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria crisis says need for protection is growing more desperate by day.

The UN on Monday conducted a one-day inter-agency mission in northwestern Syria to “better understand the humanitarian realities on the ground and to assess the feasibility of a sustained UN presence there.”

In a statement, Kevin Kennedy, the regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said the need for “humanitarian aid and protection is growing more desperate by the day” in northwestern Syria.

“With nearly one million people displaced in Idlib and surrounding areas since 1 December, the vast majority of them women and children, it is imperative that the UN uses all modalities to reach people in need, whether from inside Syria or across borders,” the statement said.

The mission visited the Kafr Lousin camp for internally displaced people and Bab al-Hawa hospital where they met health workers and patients before returning to Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

“We witnessed first-hand the dire humanitarian consequences of the ongoing violence in Idlib.

“People are traumatized and frightened and urgently need better access to shelter, food, sanitation, basic health services and protection,” he said.

Kevin noted that all parties to the conflict must adhere to their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in accordance with international humanitarian law.

“More than 2,150 trucks carrying aid crossed from Turkey into northwest Syria in January and February.

“This is more than double the number of trucks crossing during the same period in 2019. But we need to do even more and scale up our presence on the ground,” he said.

Idlib is home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

In recent months, nearly 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks by Assad regime and its allies.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia had agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression were expressly prohibited.

But since then more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in airstrikes and shelling by the regime and its allies.

On Sunday, Turkey announced a new offensive, Operation Spring Shield, in northwestern Syria to protect civilians from the regime attacks.

It came after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens injured in an Assad regime airstrike in the de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border, on Feb. 27.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

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