While the Middle East grapples with myriad crises, the Syrian regime and its allies have embarked on a brutal military campaign in the northwest Idlib province — the last major chunk of land outside the regime’s control. Around 1,000 people have been killed in the past month as regime air strikes razed apartment blocks and destroyed markets, while insurgents hit back against the regime’s bases. The stance of the major powers is also clear: while the US has called for an end to the bombing campaign, Russia has signalled it would continue to back Bashar Al Assad’s offensive. The war on Idlib is Al Assad’s biggest escalation since last summer. It has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis as Syrians displaced by the fighting seek shelter at the Turkish border.
The regime’s assault on Idlib is in defiance of a ceasefire agreement brokered by its ally Russia with Turkey last year. The unrelenting air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more, and the regime has also targeted more than 20 hospitals in the region, rendering them useless. Which means that millions in the heavily populated province have no access to health care. The attacks on the hospitals have come despite the United Nations and aid agencies providing coordinates of the medical facilities to the regime and to Russia, which has also played a major role in carrying out the aerial bombing.
It remains to be seen whether the offensive will be expanded into a full-blown military operation to retake control over the entire province [of Idlib]. That would thrust untold horrors on the long-suffering civilian population.
The war in Syria has been one of the biggest tragedies of our times. The conflict, in its ninth year, has shocked the world with the sheer scale of its brutality. Since the war erupted in 2011, more than 400,000 have been killed, and around 200,000 are unaccounted, with most of them disappearing into the torture dungeons of the regime. The involvement of extremists from all over the world has added fuel to the fire, making Syria a cauldron of death and destruction. More than 5 million people have fled the country and 6 million others have been internally displaced. That is more than half the population of Syria.
The regime’s operations appear to be aimed at regaining control over areas that lead to a major highway to Turkey and other routes that are key to trade and commerce. It remains to be seen whether the offensive will be expanded into a full-blown military operation to retake control over the entire province. That would thrust untold horrors on the long-suffering civilian population. The world needs to act before Idlib and its people become a footnote in Syria’s history.