About 350,000 people have fled Idlib since the Russian-backed offensive in December, the United Nations says

Around 350,000 Syrians, mainly women and children, have fled the opposition-held province of Idlib since the beginning of December before a renewed Russian-supported offensive and sought protection in border areas near Turkey, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The humanitarian situation has deteriorated further due to the “escalating” hostilities, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest situation report.


Russian jets and Syrian artillery have hit cities and towns in recent weeks in a renewed attack, supported by pro-Iranian militias and aimed at cleaning up the opposition, Swanson, United Nations regional spokesman for Syria in Amman, said Reuters.

Russian and Syrian jets resumed bombing of civilian areas in the opposition enclave two days after the official ceasefire between Turkey and Russia on Sunday.

Karen AbuZayd, a United Nations war crime investigator in Syria, told reporters in Geneva that many of the destroyed or closed schools in areas held by the opposition now serve as shelters for people fleeing violence. The latest wave of displaced people is coming in. Around 400,000 people fled earlier to fight for the security of camps near the Turkish border, UN officials say.

Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN investigative commission for Syria, told reporters on Thursday that many uprooted families now in makeshift camps are running out of food and water, according to the United Nations, in the province of Idlib, where nearly 3 million people are trapped are.

Truckloads of civilians flee a Syrian military offensive in Idlib province on the main street near Hazano, Syria, on December 24, 2019. Ghaith al-Sayed / AP

Rescuers and residents said Thursday, Russian and Syrian jets destroyed the destroyed city of Maarat al-Numan. It is one of the most important urban centers in the province and is located on a main street held by rebels.

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The army and the militias supported by Iran are approaching the city. Its capture would be a strategic asset in the current campaign, which aims to regain control of major trade routes in Syria. At least 21 civilians were killed in a heavy air raid on Wednesday, including 19 people who died when the war broke out. Bombs were dropped on a busy market square in the center of the provincial capital Idlib.