The humanitarian crisis in north-west Syria has reached a horrifying stage as fleeing civilians are attacked by government forces, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday, calling for the establishment of humanitarian corridors.
The United Nations estimates that more than 900,000 people have been uprooted in the region since the start of December, representing the largest displacement since the conflict started in 2011.
Last April, the Syrian government and allied Russians launched a large-scale campaign to seize rebel-held areas in Western Aleppo and Idlib, the last rebel redoubt. Although Russia brokered a ceasefire with the rebels' ally Turkey in January, the Syrian army and allied forces have continued their advances into Idlib.
Since the start of the year, nearly 300 civilians have been killed in the violence, 93 per cent of them caused by the army and its allies, according to the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva.
‘No shelter is now safe,’ Bachelet said. ‘And as the government offensive continues and people are forced into smaller and smaller pockets, I fear even more people will be killed.’ The Syrian government and its allies should allow corridors into the conflict zones, so that civilians can pass through safely, the former Chilean president demanded.
Camps of displaced people have been repeatedly hit by government strikes. Last Friday and Saturday, one man was killed and six other civilians were wounded in such attacks.
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF, meanwhile, said that since the beginning of the year 77 children were confirmed to have been killed or injured due to the escalation of violence in north-western Syria.
‘The carnage in north-west Syria continues to exact a horrific toll on children,’ said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
More than 500,000 children have been displaced by intense violence in the area since December 1, with tens of thousands of families now living in tents and in the open air amid very cold weather.
‘Children and families are caught between the violence, the biting cold, the lack of food and the desperate living conditions. Such abject disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children and families is beyond the pale and must not go on,’ Fore added.
In the Syrian capital Damascus, one person was killed and three others were wounded on Tuesday when a bomb planted in their car exploded, a Syrian security source told dpa.
The source said the blast took place in the Bab al Muslaa district in the centre of the city.