Aid group warns north-west Syria at ‘breaking point’ as Idlib offensive rages

More than 235,000 people have already been forced to flee the province after fighting began last week

A Syrian woman who fled from government forces' advance on Maaret al-Numan in the south of the Idlib prvoince, carries a child at a camp for displaced people near the village of Harbnoush on December 27, 2019. Since mid-December, regime forces and their Russian allies have heightened bombardment on the southern edge of the final major opposition-held pocket of Syria, eight years into the country's devastating war. / AFP / Aref TAMMAWI
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

An international aid group said on Saturday that conditions in north-west Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province are "already at breaking point,” and called for an immediate cease-fire.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned that continued violence could displace as many as 400,000 in the coming weeks.

After weeks of intense bombardment, Syrian government forces launched a ground offensive on the southern and eastern parts of Idlib in the north-west last week, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that as a result of hostilities more than 235,000 people had been displaced between December 12 and December 25.

Many of those fled from the town of Maaret Al Numan, toward which Syrian troops have been advancing since Thursday.

On Saturday, activists and the UK-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported limited clashes on the southeastern edge of the enclave, as well as an airstrike that destroyed a bakery in Maasran.

Rehana Zawar, the IRC’s country director for north-west Syria, said the enclave is already in the midst of a major humanitarian crisis.

Ms Zawar warned that if violence escalates, 400,000 could be forced to leave their homes, pushing the number of the displaced inside Idlib to over a million.

The province is home to over 3 million people.

The enclave is already home to many displaced from previous rounds of violent in the nine-year war.