SARAQIB, Syria -- An intensified and deadly bombing campaign by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia has spurred the displacement of more than 400,000 inhabitants of northwestern Syria over the past three months, the United Nations (UN) said in a statement Friday (July 26).
The area covers almost all of Idlib Province and parts of neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. It is home to about 3 million residents, about half of whom already fled to the area from other parts of the country.
Most of the displacement is from southern Idlib and northern Hama, the two areas hit hardest by the Russian and Syrian regime bombings, according to a report released Friday by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"More than 400,000 people have been displaced since the end of April," said David Swanson, an OCHA official.
Idlib Province is supposed to be protected by a months-old international truce, but it has come under increased bombardment by the Syrian and Russian regimes since late April.
"The majority of those fleeing have displaced within Idlib governorate, while a smaller number have moved into northern Aleppo governorate," the report said. "Roughly two-thirds of people displaced are staying outside camps."
The region is controlled by the extremist alliance Tahrir al-Sham.
Since the end of April OCHA has documented 39 attacks against health facilities or medical workers in the region, said OCHA.
At least 50 schools have been damaged by the air strikes and shelling, it added.
"These are civilian objects, and it seems highly unlikely ... that they are all being hit by accident," UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Friday.
More than 750 civilians killed since April
Since late April, more than 750 civilians have been killed in aerial bombardment and shelling of the region by the Syrian regime and its allies, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday (July 28).
Regime air strikes Sunday killed five civilians in Ariha, Idlib Province, said the Observatory.
Russian raids, meanwhile, killed three civilians in Hama, according to the monitor.
Shelling and air strikes by the regime also killed three other civilians elsewhere in the northwest, it added.
The bombardment comes a day after regime and Russian air strikes on the region killed 15 civilians, including 11 in Ariha, the monitor said.
Slaughtering civilians, pretending to fight terrorists
Such violence has led many to accuse the Kremlin of perpetrating a massacre in Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorists.
The aim of the air raids is to "put pressure on the factions and their popular base", said Nawar Oliver, an analyst at the Turkey-based Omran Centre, on Sunday.
It is a "terrifying war of attrition with civilians, health institutions and other infrastructure all being targeted," said Oliver.
Russia on July 18 opposed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to attacks on health facilities in Idlib.
The outcome led to a rare statement following the meeting by the UN's humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock.
"The carnage must stop," he said.