Human Exodus: Russian Bombing Over Northern Syria Empties Towns

Published February 5th, 2020 - 08:11 GMT

A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave has caused one of the biggest waves of displacement in the nine-year-old war.

Weeks of intensive aerial bombardment and a bruising ground offensive have emptied entire towns in the northwestern region of Idlib and sent huge numbers fleeing northwards, closer to the Turkish border.

The exodus, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start in 2011 of a conflict during which more than half of the country's pre-war population of 20 million has been displaced.

This latest displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation on the ground when over 400,000 people were displaced from the end of April through the end of August, many of them multiple times.

Turkey, which already hosts millions of Syrian refugees, is keen to stop another mass influx.

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A Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck with belongings and furniture as people displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP

A Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck with belongings and furniture as people displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP

A Syrian man writes in white paint on the trunk of a tree the Arabic slogan "we will not abandon the olives", near the frontline between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the town of Sarmin in the northern Syrian Idlib province on February 4, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP

A Syrian man writes in white paint on the trunk of a tree the Arabic slogan "we will not abandon the olives", near the frontline between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the town of Sarmin in the northern Syrian Idlib province on February 4, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP

A Syrian child looks up as relatives load belongings onto a truck ahead of leaving the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syr

A Syrian child looks up as relatives load belongings onto a truck ahead of leaving the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP

Syrians load their belongings onto a truck as they prepare to leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly

Syrians load their belongings onto a truck as they prepare to leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP

A Syrian youth climbs atop belongings in the back of a truck as people leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian wa

A Syrian youth climbs atop belongings in the back of a truck as people leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP

Displaced Syrian girls look on from within a vehicle passing through the town of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, fleeing northwards amid an ongoing regime offensive. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nea

Displaced Syrian girls look on from within a vehicle passing through the town of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, fleeing northwards amid an ongoing regime offensive. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP

Syrians displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP

Syrians displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP

A child sits in a make-shift swing in the back of a truck in the vicinity of the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad on February 4, 2020, where many families from the south of Aleppo province have fled to following Syrian government forces' bombardment. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP

A child sits in a make-shift swing in the back of a truck in the vicinity of the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad on February 4, 2020, where many families from the south of Aleppo province have fled to following Syrian government forces' bombardment. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP

A man speaks with a Turkish-backed Syrian fighter in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad by the border with Turkey on February 4, 2020. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP

A man speaks with a Turkish-backed Syrian fighter in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad by the border with Turkey on February 4, 2020. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP

A Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck with belongings and furniture as people displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
A Syrian man writes in white paint on the trunk of a tree the Arabic slogan "we will not abandon the olives", near the frontline between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the town of Sarmin in the northern Syrian Idlib province on February 4, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP
A Syrian child looks up as relatives load belongings onto a truck ahead of leaving the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syr
Syrians load their belongings onto a truck as they prepare to leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly
A Syrian youth climbs atop belongings in the back of a truck as people leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian wa
Displaced Syrian girls look on from within a vehicle passing through the town of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, fleeing northwards amid an ongoing regime offensive. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nea
Syrians displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
A child sits in a make-shift swing in the back of a truck in the vicinity of the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad on February 4, 2020, where many families from the south of Aleppo province have fled to following Syrian government forces' bombardment. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP
A man speaks with a Turkish-backed Syrian fighter in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad by the border with Turkey on February 4, 2020. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP
A Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck with belongings and furniture as people displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
A Syrian girl rides in the back of a truck with belongings and furniture as people displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
A Syrian man writes in white paint on the trunk of a tree the Arabic slogan "we will not abandon the olives", near the frontline between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the town of Sarmin in the northern Syrian Idlib province on February 4, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP
A Syrian man writes in white paint on the trunk of a tree the Arabic slogan "we will not abandon the olives", near the frontline between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the town of Sarmin in the northern Syrian Idlib province on February 4, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP
A Syrian child looks up as relatives load belongings onto a truck ahead of leaving the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syr
A Syrian child looks up as relatives load belongings onto a truck ahead of leaving the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP
Syrians load their belongings onto a truck as they prepare to leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly
Syrians load their belongings onto a truck as they prepare to leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP
A Syrian youth climbs atop belongings in the back of a truck as people leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian wa
A Syrian youth climbs atop belongings in the back of a truck as people leave the town of Binnish in the northwestern province of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, amid an ongoing offensive by pro-regime forces. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP
Displaced Syrian girls look on from within a vehicle passing through the town of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, fleeing northwards amid an ongoing regime offensive. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nea
Displaced Syrian girls look on from within a vehicle passing through the town of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib, on February 4, 2020, fleeing northwards amid an ongoing regime offensive. A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people in two months, according to the United Nations. The wave of displacement, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start of the Syrian war nearly nine years ago. AAREF WATAD / AFP
Syrians displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
Syrians displaced from the south of Idlib province travelling in vehicles loaded with furniture and other belongings and fleeing from advancing government forces arrive at a camp for the internally displaced near Dayr Ballut, near the Turkish border in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province in the country's northwest on February 4, 2020. Rami al SAYED / AFP
A child sits in a make-shift swing in the back of a truck in the vicinity of the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad on February 4, 2020, where many families from the south of Aleppo province have fled to following Syrian government forces' bombardment. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP
A child sits in a make-shift swing in the back of a truck in the vicinity of the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad on February 4, 2020, where many families from the south of Aleppo province have fled to following Syrian government forces' bombardment. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP
A man speaks with a Turkish-backed Syrian fighter in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad by the border with Turkey on February 4, 2020. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP
A man speaks with a Turkish-backed Syrian fighter in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad by the border with Turkey on February 4, 2020. Bakr ALKASEM / AFP