Death and fear among civilians in NW Syria amid Assad regime’s bombardment

Idlib, Syria — Seven civilians were killed and 20 others were injured on Sunday when the military of President Bashar al-Assad bombed the city of Idlib and towns in the countryside near Aleppo.

Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer group that offers medical services, as well as rescue and relief assistance to communities in opposition-held areas of the country’s northwest, said they responded to the deaths of five civilians, including a child and a woman pregnant with twins, in the town of Darat Izza. They also assisted an additional five injured people, including two children, after more than 40 artillery shells fell on the area.

Another 15 people were injured, including five children and a woman, as a result of missile bombardment on residential neighbourhoods in the city of Idlib.

Abu Amin, an observer who monitors the movement of missiles and military aircraft in the area added that two others were killed in the town of Abzimo in the western countryside of Aleppo, as a result of artillery shelling with Acacia 152 launchers and Grad 40 missiles.

[Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]
Seven civilians were killed and 20 others injured when regime forces bombed the city of Idlib and towns in the western countryside of Aleppo [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

So far this month, there have been 48 attacks on civilians in 15 cities and towns, resulting in the deaths of nine people, including three children and a woman, according to the Civil Defence.

The deputy director of the Syrian Civil Defence, Mounir Mustafa, told Al Jazeera that the bombing caused a state of “terror” among residents, in addition to the damage it caused to residential buildings, shops and public facilities. The Syrian Civil Defence are also known as the White Helmets.

Fear and displacement

A shell fell a few metres away from Majoun Turki, a resident of the Shuhada Camp in Darat Izza, and he was wounded by a small piece of shrapnel.

“When it fell, I no longer realised what was going on around me. I became dizzy, and my eyes still hurt,” the 60-year-old man told Al Jazeera.

A shell fell a few metres away from Majoun Turki, a resident of the Shuhada Camp in Darat Azza, and he was wounded by a small piece of shrapnel.
Majoun Turki, a resident of the Shuhada Camp in Darat Izza, was injured by a piece of shrapnel in the latest bombing [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

While Darat Izza, which connects the areas of the northern and western Aleppo countryside and Idlib, is subjected to repeated bombardment by the ruling regime’s forces, the most recent bombing led to the displacement of civilians towards nearby farmlands.

“My family has now fled towards the highway. I asked them to leave for the sake of the young children”, said Turki, a father to 11 children, whose family has been displaced since 2011, when the attacks began on his village in the eastern Hama countryside.

“Fear was intense yesterday,” said Bashar Fandu, whose two cousins were among those killed in the Darat Izza bombing. They were buying gasoline when the shell fell on top of them, killing them along with the seller and two passers-by.

“The violent shelling continued during the burial at night,” he added.

Unprovoked bombing

The Syrian regime and its ally Russia deny targeting civilians and proclaim that they target military faction sites.

Abu Amin, the observer, said that the recent attacks on the city of Idlib were “unprovoked”, as they were not accompanied by military actions by the opposition factions, and the strikes did not target the positions of those factions.

“The bombing sometimes coincides with military actions by the opposition factions,” Abu Amin said, noting that the attack on the towns of the western Aleppo countryside yesterday evening was in response to the bombing of the towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa, located in regime-controlled areas, by the opposition factions.

Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]
The violent shelling continued during the burial at night [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

While the region has been subject to a ceasefire truce since March 2020, violations have continued, especially during the last four months. Civil Defence teams have counted 1,206 attacks by regime forces and its allies from the beginning of 2023 until December 10, which have killed 154 people and injured 652.

“These attacks threaten the lives of residents, impose a state of instability, and force people to flee at a time when the humanitarian crisis is worsening with the approaching winter,” Mustafa from the Civil Defence said.

Of the 4.5 million people who live in northwestern Syria, 2.9 million are displaced. About two million of them live in random camps that lack basic services.

Edem Wosornu, director of operations and advocacy for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, spoke to the Security Council on November 28 about the danger of renewed bombing campaigns on northwestern Syria, describing it as “the most significant we have seen since 2019.”

According to the UN, recent months have witnessed the displacement of 120,000 people from the southern Idlib countryside to the north, as a result of repeated bombing.

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