Amnesty to UN: Vital aid lifeline to north-west Syria must continue


As the resolution allowing humanitarian assistance to reach Idlib across Syria’s borders is set to expire in the coming weeks, Amnesty International urged the UN Security Council not to cut a vital aid lifeline for civilians in north-west Syria.

In July 2014, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing cross-border aid into north-west Syria and other parts of the country held by armed opposition groups, without requiring the consent of the Syrian government.

The resolution has been repeatedly extended since then – although with extreme difficulty in recent years and a reduction of scope in January 2020. It is due to expire on 10 July.

Syria and its allies are seeking to end this arrangement and channel aid through Damascus instead, which would make it very difficult for the UN and its humanitarian partners to deliver timely and sustained aid.

The Syrian government has regularly sought to restrict aid operations through bureaucratic requirements. It has also “blacklisted” and persecuted aid workers associated with opposition-held areas.

Armed groups like Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham who are allied with the government have also hampered humanitarian organizations from doing their jobs effectively.

“UN officials have already called Idlib a humanitarian ‘horror story’ – this will only worsen unless the Security Council sees beyond political ploys and sustains the precious lifeline of cross-border humanitarian aid,” said Heba Morayef , Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

A new Amnesty International report, ‘Nowhere is safe for us’: Unlawful attacks and mass displacement in north-west Syria, details 18 cases – the majority in January and February 2020 – where Syrian and/or Russian government forces targeted medical facilities and schools in Idlib, western Aleppo and north-western Hama governorates.

As a result, before the 5 March ceasefire almost 1 million people in Idlib – many of whom had been displaced repeatedly – were forced to flee again and languished in dire conditions in recent months.

“Even by the standards of Syria’s calamitous nine-year crisis, the displacement and humanitarian emergency sparked by the latest onslaught on Idlib has been unprecedented. The UN Security Council must not cut the vital lifeline of cross-border humanitarian aid while thousands of lives hang in the balance,” said Morayef.

“The latest offensive continued an abhorrent pattern of widespread and systematic attacks aimed at terrorizing the civilian population. Meanwhile, Russia has continued to provide invaluable military support – including by directly carrying out unlawful air strikes – despite evidence that it is facilitating the Syrian military’s commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The latest onslaught on Idlib forced close to a million people – more than 80% of them women and children – to flee towards areas close to the Turkish border between December 2019 and March 2020.

Cornered in an ever-shrinking space, these civilians continue to suffer intolerable living conditions amid a massively overstretched humanitarian response. Timely and sustained aid is needed more than ever. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)