Idlib: Over 800,000 refugees since December

550,000 internally displaced people would look for safe accommodation within the Idlib area, in Dana, Mareet Tamsrin and suburbs of Idlib, where accommodation has become scarce due to earlier arrivals of large numbers of refugees

Source: Gianmarco Maraviglia

Accommodation for refugees from Idlib is most urgently needed and the immediate cessation of acts of war, demands the UN refugee organization OCHA. Since the beginning of December, more than 800,000 people have fled war violence in and around Idlib. The majority, 81 percent, are women and children.

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Children alone would make up 60 percent, according to OCHA’s current management report. In the past few days alone, between February 9 and 12, an estimated 142,000 people had fled: “Accommodation is the most urgent need.”

The temperatures in northern Syria are below freezing, the supply of essentials is difficult; there were already cold fatalities, even among children, malnutrition and that many of the refugees had to leave several times had weakened their resistance.

Most would flee north, now that places such as Sarmin, Atareb, Teftnaz, as well as Idlib City itself, as well as other towns are affected by the war, where many had previously fled. Many would seek shelter near the Turkish border: in the northwest of Idlib Governorate and in the north of Aleppo Governorate. OCHA reports that there are 250,000 who would seek refuge there.

Unfinished buildings, open terrain and an abandoned bus

550,000 internally displaced people would look for safe accommodation within the Idlib area, in Dana, Mareet Tamsrin and suburbs of Idlib, where accommodation has become scarce due to earlier arrivals of large numbers of refugees.

36 percent of the new internally displaced people would find shelter in rented apartments or with host families, 17 percent would try their luck to stay in camps, 12 percent would use their own tents, 15 percent would live in unfinished buildings and 82,000 people would live in open areas, “below Trees “, say the disastrous picture of the UN organization.

“There were 16 people living with me. If you had previously believed that the humanitarian situation was bad, it is now much worse because people die outside in the cold and it is snowing and you can see people living in a abandoned bus.” Bilal Abdul Kareem describes the situation.

The American who converted to Islam is a politically unilateral source. Bilal Abdul Kareem is on the side of the “armed opposition to the Syrian regime”. He is the lead man on On the Ground News, which reports directly from areas controlled by the jihadist militias. A few years ago it was in Aleppo, now it’s Idlib.

Uncertainty in the Sharia zone

His support for jihad, as the uprising against the Syrian government is clearly named in armed opposition circles, while the term “revolution” is less used externally, is unmistakable. But his pictures from inside the Sharia zone also show the extent of the destruction caused by the war, which has now destroyed the country for an incredible 9 years.

Since there are no reporters on site who are at a critical distance from the Islamists, Salafists, and jihadists because of the violence of war and the authoritarian-dictatorial conditions under the militia rule, which is at war with press freedom, Bilal Abdul Kareem is indeed a propaganda source of information, but it also gives some insights.

His interview with Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a specialist in extremist militias in Syria, shows how great the uncertainty in the zones of the “rebellious armed forces” is, as Bilal Abdul Kareem describes them. It concerns, on the one hand, the uncertainty regarding the behavior of the Turkish army, and, on the other hand, the question of how to proceed within the armed opposition.

The impression given by the operator of “On the Ground News” is that of a situation in which there is no certainty at all, but above all distrust. With one exception: Turkey is not believed to face a confrontation with Russia. This applies in addition to the observation that the new US sanctions by the “Caesar Law”, mainly affects the population, as a largely safe point of orientation.

Arrangements at the expense of the Kurds?

According to the latest information provided by the well-connected al-Monitor journalist Amberin Zaman, it is becoming apparent that Turkey and Russia will agree on an arrangement. It is still speculated what contours agreements will have on a new ceasefire. Deals are considered likely in which Idlib will give a bargaining chip for Turkish claims in other Syrian areas on the border with Turkey: areas of Kurdish self-government.

It is considered fairly certain that Turkey will not give up its military presence in Syria, which it has now strengthened. And that the statements by US Special Representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, who was recently in Ankara and encouraged Turkey in its military venture (“go all in” on Idlib), have no coverage from Washington that Erdogan could count on, to be more aggressive.

According to Amberin Zaman, the Pentagon reported that there had been no such explanation of concrete support from the USA and NATO for Turkish attacks in Idlib. In addition, a constructive relationship with Russia’s leadership is essential for the Turkish government for many reasons.

Meanwhile, the Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar should try to make soothing statements that set a ceasefire as a goal – as a counterpoint to Erdogan’s martial statements.[end]


The author of the article is Thomas Pany. Thomas Pany studied political science with Kurt Sontheimer at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, plus modern history and Semitic studies. The original article has been published in Telepolis. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.