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11 Security Council members urge Idlib ceasefire

Fears of a humanitarian crisis in Idlib is growing [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2019

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Kuwait, Belgium, the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Ivory Coast, Peru, Dominical Republic and France expressed concern at the bloodshed in Syria's Idlib.

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Syria, Idlib, war

Eleven members of the United Nations Security Council are urging fighters in Syria's last rebel-held stronghold in Idlib province to honour last September's ceasefire arrangements.

A statement read on Friday on behalf of Kuwait, Belgium, the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Ivory Coast, Peru, Dominical Republic and France expressed "great concern" at the intensifying bloodshed in north western Syria.

The statement expressed deep concern "of a potential humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib zone."

Four council UNSCR members — Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia — refused to support the statement.

Read also: Kuwait arrests EU blacklisted pro-Assad Syrian businessman Mazen al-Tarazi

The 11 countries deplored the loss of innocent civilian lives and expressed distress at the displacement of over 150,000 people, as well as the targeting of population centres and civilian infrastructure including schools and hospitals.

"We urge all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilian," their statement said.

Syrian forces backed by Russian air power waged a long battle for Aleppo that ended in late 2016, costing thousands of lives and leaving the historic city in ruins.

Since April 29, 12 health facilities including two major hospitals have been hit in northwest Syria, according to the World Health Organisation.

About three million people live in Idlib, the last major bastion to remain outside the control of the Syrian government. 

Activists and human rights organisations have repeatedly warned of an impending humanitarian disaster in the event of a full-scale ground attack on Idlib by the regime and its allies.

The province is largely controlled by HTS and other rebel factions, and is populated by three million civilians, more than half of whom fled to the province from regime attacks in other areas of the country.

With Turkey's border sealed, it is feared that civilians have nowhere to run.

Displaced

The head of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Paulo Pinheiro also expressed concerns over the tens of thousands of civilians displaced during the Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) campaign to rid Syria of its last Islamic State group-held territory.

Refugee camps in northern Syria have been pushed to the limit, Pinheiro said.

The Al-Hol camp, initially built to host 10,000 displaced people, now has a population of more than 73,000. The vast majority of them are women and children.

Many displaced people are "being held in limbo under dire humanitarian conditions" with marginal access to food and medical care, he said, while they are "treated as security threats".

This has "inevitably" led to "preventable deaths", the commission said in a statement, noted that up to 240 children have reportedly died due to malnutrition or untreated infected wounds.

Pinheiro also criticised the "drastic action" of Western governments who have refused to repatriate citizens "solely because they assume they are families" of IS fighters.

Governments should at the very least "respect basic principles of due process including the right to a hearing and to appeal" before revoking the citizenship of IS-affiliated nationals, he said.

The commission is "particularly alarmed", Pinheiro said, about children who are "vulnerable to being left without a nationality".

Pinheiro noted several thousand suspected IS fighters - including hundreds of foreign fighters from nearly 50 countries - are being "held incommunicado" by the Syrian military.

He urged the Syrian regime to allow those detainees to be visited by "an independent international humanitarian organisation and human rights monitors".

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