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UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by Syrian crisis

UN‘s Michelle Bachelet describes Syrian humanitarian crisis as ‘cruel beyond belief’

Peter Kenny   | 18.02.2020
UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by Syrian crisis

GENEVA

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed "horror” at the scale of the humanitarian crisis in northwestern Syria.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read parts of her statement at a UN press briefing.

He said: “It is cruel beyond belief that civilians, mostly women and children, living under scraps of plastic sheeting in freezing conditions, are being bombed.

“Entire families, some who have fled from one corner of Syria to the other over the past decade, are tragically finding that bombs are part of their everyday life,” said Colville.

The UN rights office said it could see no justification for carrying out such “indiscriminate and inhumane attacks on an already hugely traumatized population".

Bachelet said: “Civilians fleeing the fighting are being squeezed into areas without safe shelter that are shrinking in size by the hour. And still, they are bombed. They simply have nowhere to go.”

She noted that there was a high risk that civilians would no longer be able to cross from Idlib to any other areas in Syria.

With 148,000 people displaced in Idlib city in the past six days, the number of displaced people in Idlib and neighboring areas since January 2019 has reached nearly 2 million.

Most of them are taking shelter in areas close to the bordering Turkey, which already hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

The high commissioner urgently called on all parties to the Syrian conflict, “including state and non-state actors,” to immediately cease hostilities and ensure the protection of all civilians.

The Syrian regime backed by its allies, has continued its military offensive this month to control critical areas in Idlib and Aleppo.

The UN Human Rights Office recorded incidents in which at least 100 civilians, including 18 women and 35 children, were killed and many other civilians injured.

The deaths were the result of the airstrikes and ground-based strikes by government forces and their allies from Feb. 1 to 16.

According to UN estimates, more than 900,000 people, of whom about 80% are women and children, have been displaced since December 2019.

In all, since Jan. 1, this year, the UN Human Rights Office has recorded the deaths of 298 civilians in Idlib and Aleppo.

The Syrian regime and its allies caused around 93% of those deaths, according to the UN.

Also, 10 medical facilities and 19 educational facilities were either directly hit or affected by strikes close by.

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