BEIRUT-- 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.
"Since 1 December, some 520,000 people have been displaced from their homes, the vast majority –- 80% -- of them women and children," said David Swanson, spokesman for the United Nations (UN) Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
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," Swanson said.
The UN was alarmed by the plight of more than three million people -- half of them displaced from their homes -- who live in Idlib Province and surrounding areas, he said.
Government troops and militia backed by Russian and other allied forces have in recent weeks ramped up the pressure on the last rebel-controlled pocket.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern Monday (February 3) that conditions in the violence-plagued region were conducive to the outbreak of diseases.
The situation "characterised by lack of access and medicine, insufficient hygiene, chaos and mass displacement -- poses a significant risk of outbreaks of measles, diarrhoeal diseases and other diseases", WHO regional emergency director Rick Brennan said.
UN chief António Guterres February 1 urged all sides to halt the violence and allow for the necessary humanitarian effort to take place.
Growing Russian crimes in Syria
Western nations have continued to urge Moscow and Damascus to halt their attacks on civilians.
Russian military operations have resulted in almost 7,000 civilian deaths since 2015, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said in a report last September, the fourth anniversary of the Kremlin's military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
Among those dead are 1,928 children and 908 women, according to evidence collected by Syrian activists on the ground.
The report documents 236 instances in which Russian forces used the internationally banned cluster bomb to carry out attacks, along with 125 instances of incendiary weapon use.
There is also a growing body of evidence that Russian warplanes deliberately bombed hospitals in Syria to undermine the Syrian opposition.
The Kremlin's deadly operations aimed at expanding its territorial occupation of Syria have met fierce and angry resistance from locals.
In one of the most intense signs of growing unrest, a video posted on social media in mid-November showed Syrians hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at Russian military vehicles patrolling areas the Kremlin is attempting to occupy.
"A video posted on social media in mid-November showed Syrians hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at Russian military vehicles patrolling areas the Kremlin is attempting to occupy." Are they patrolling there or occupying it? If they're occupying it, why didn't CNN scream about Russia annexing new territories? So it's easy to see this article's true colors...Reply
Had fucking democrats not meddled with Syria, Syrians would be in Syria and there would be no IS. Russia is not to blame here, unlike the USA, NATO, and their minions.Reply
What does NATO have to do with it? The people don't approve of Assad; they want to oust him, but Russia is getting in the way and killing Muslims.Reply
And in Raqqa nobody even provided any corridors. And no one knows for sure how many people died there. Yet nobody badmouths America. You see, IS fighters were there, and they were the bad guys, so it's acceptable. And here we have good insurgents. But essentially all of them are the same. Those blaming Russia are hypocrites and liars. They are guilty as hell themselves.Reply
Why did no one write about it when Americans did the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan, and only now everybody is getting alarmed and starting to badmouth RussiaReply
To hell with you, white helmet scumbagsReply
Unbelievable nonsense )))Reply
Putin is Satan. The time to pay the piper is comingReply
Fake, fake, fake...Reply
I am for holding Russia fully responsible for all its military crimes against humanity.Reply
Caravanserai is fucking paid up bullshit...Reply
Russia is an atrocious countryReply
Russia will shed its blood for these crimesReply
America, not Russia, is to blame for all the latest conflicts across the globe.Reply
Russia is a terrorist organization that only knows murderReply
Because Russians are fascists.Reply
It's the other way around - Russians destroy fascists.Reply