By Ty Joplin
The outcome of the Syrian Civil War may be a foregone conclusion by now, but it is far from over.
As major outlets turn away from the conflict zone and analysts are beginning to focus their energy on reconstruction, reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts, nearly four million civilians in Idlib, Syria face daily bombing raids and shootings.
For them, the war has been slowly heating up, and many fear it will reach a boiling point as an all-out military assault by the Assad regime on the province still remains a distinct possibility.
Ahmad Aldamen works as a senior program official for Islamic Relief in embattled Idlib, and he offers a firsthand look into the desperation in Idlib via press release.
His account sheds light on the danger Idlib’s civilians confront in their daily lives: many have dug caves for themselves and family to survive artillery volleys and airstrikes and struggle to earn a living in a besieged region.
"The bombing over the weekend [of Nov 23-24] was heavier than usual and had tragic consequences; several children lost their lives. It also led to large-scale displacement,” Aldamen said. “In areas where there is bombing every day like Northern Hama, there are less casualties as people go underground and they are better prepared.”
More people are being displaced in Idlib, as the war drags into its eight year. The rebel-held region of Idlib itself contains two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) from other areas of Syria, who have fled into the last major territory held by opposition and jihadi forces.
“Life is very stressful as it's not clear when and where there will be attacks. It's like life is hanging in the balance. Life is getting back to normal in some places in terms of security but the economy has never been this bad. People can't invest in any long-term ventures as safety is never guaranteed,” Aldamen added.
“But many NGOs and donors are scaling down or are diverting aid from north-western Syria to the eastern part. And important aid projects, including support to hospitals, have finished. This is very dangerous.”
The international shift in focus away from Syria has imperiled the lives of those Syrian civilians who live near the frontlines. Areas such as Kafr Zaytna Al Lataminah and Jisr al-Shughur live within range of the regime’s artillery and dozens over other villages and towns live under constant fear of Russian or Syrian jets.
Dozens have been killed and injured in the bombings. On Oct 26, seven people, including three women and three children, were killed in the village of Rafa by regime-allied jets.
Rebels have also been endangering civilians in regime-held territory as they periodically send volleys of artillery towards populated areas.
“The needs are as big as ever. There are 4 million people in Idlib now and at least half are displaced. There are huge displaced people's camps with no infrastructure and very poor education and health facilities. People have lost their livelihoods and they are really struggling; living in appalling conditions,” Aldamen said.
As winter sets in, it also brings a season of rain to the Middle East. According to Aldamen, the effects of cold and rainy weather have already strained Idlib’s vulnerable civilians.
Children stand near a muddy puddle from a rainstorm at a camp in Kafr Dariyan, Idlib (AFP/OMAR HAJ KADOUR)
“One area in particular is very difficult - Khirbet al Jouz - a border village in north-western Idlib. It's a mountainous region and therefore much colder and there's no infrastructure, nothing, and no way for people to earn a living. The people who live here came from Latakia, which was a very poor area even before the war began,” he said.
“I particularly remember meeting one man who was in despair. His land was burnt down and his house was damaged and he said he had literally nothing and didn't know what to do.”
The initial regime assault on Idlib was narrowly avoided by a multilaterally agreed ceasefire continent on Turkey’s ability to disarm opposition and jihadi forces along the border. Most groups complied, and the assault was postponed, but that did not stop the bombing.
Meanwhile, Turkey has sealed off its border with Syria and is barring civilians from seeking refuge there, leaving Idlib’s four million trapped.
“It's also very sad that so many people are forced to live on the frontline—where it is unsafe or there is no aid, because they cannot afford to go anywhere else. They are condemned to a horrible life.”
© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)