Charity says airstrikes have left more than 300 children dead across Idlib province
Bombing by Syrian government and Russian forces of the last opposition-held pockets of Syria have killed 1,300 people and displaced almost 1 million more since the sustained attacks began in April, according to monitors, Agencies report.
Figures released on Wednesday by the Syria Campaign, a UK-based charity, also found the relentless bombardment has left 304 children and 11 rescue workers dead across north-west Idlib province and the surrounding countryside.
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian allies began ferocious airstrikes and a limited ground campaign against the remains of the Syrian opposition on 26 April.
At least 11,500 airstrikes have been carried out since then, including the documented use of more than 460 cluster bombs and 1,280 barrel bombs, illegal under international law, which have been used to target civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.
About 42,000 people have fled their homes in the last week alone.
“With winter approaching, the situation is very bad in the camps. Those who have fled recently are living under trees without shelter or tents to protect them,” said Ahmad Arafat, the manager of Hurras Child Protection Network in Idlib.
“Children live in constant fear and are unable to play outside or go to the park. Anywhere with groups of people is a possible target for bombing. Schools are particularly dangerous.”
A ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last September was supposed to save Idlib from the impending regime attack. It unravelled, however, after control of the area was wrested from more moderate rebel groups in January by the hardline Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
Aid agencies warned before last year’s ceasefire that an assault on Idlib would put the lives of 3 million civilians in danger and trigger the worst humanitarian disaster of the war to date.
Originally home to about 1 million people, Idlib’s population has swollen with civilians displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country.
Despite a supposed ceasefire, fighting also continues in Syria’s north-east, where Turkey launched an attack on western-backed Kurdish-led forces last month.