World, Middle East

Senior UN adviser warns of catastrophe in Syria's Idlib

'A humanitarian catastrophe is a grave danger if the violence does not cease,' says Najat Rochdi

Servet Gunerigok   | 07.06.2019
Senior UN adviser warns of catastrophe in Syria's Idlib file photo

WASHINGTON 

A top UN adviser warned Thursday of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, northwestern Syria, where the Bashar al-Assad regime has been stepping up airstrikes.

In a statement, Najat Rochdi, senior humanitarian adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said 3 million people in Idlib need protection.

"A humanitarian catastrophe is a grave danger if the violence does not cease," Rochdi said. "Attacks and fighting are also impacting civilians in government-controlled areas."

The statement came after a weekly Humanitarian Task Force meeting, during which she said she heard firsthand reporting from her UN colleagues based in the region.

The "increasingly horrific brutality in recent weeks [...] has caused significant civilian causalities and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people," she said.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime, however, has consistently broken the terms of the truce, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.

"Let me be clear," said Rochdi. "The protection of civilians is paramount".

Rochdi called on warring parties to uphold their obligations under international law and immediately stop attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.

"We have a collective responsibility to the victims of this conflict, many of whom are too young to try to make sense of this senseless war," she said.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.

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