Thousands displaced by fighting in Syria’s Idlib

Although declared a de-escalation zone last year, there has been no let-up in fighting in rebel-held western province.

Beirut, Lebanon – Nahar al-Raheel has been through this before.

The Syrian man has been displaced for the past seven years, “running from one place to the other”.

If God doesn’t help us, no one can,” he says from an open field in Idlib province, where he is among about 200,000 other displaced Syrians who fled deadly fighting in areas across the country.

Idlib figures within one of the so-called de-escalation zones set up in Syria last September in an effort to scale back the conflict.

But as the fighting continues, tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing the area, which is home to about two million people.

Believed to be the largest remaining rebel-held area in Syria, hospitals, markets and bakeries across Idlib province have been hit by government air raids.

An estimated 60,000 people are believed to have been displaced in recent weeks.


“We had to leave the area because of air strikes,” said Jamile Al Ismail, a displaced Syrian woman. “We tried to return to the village, but it was targeted again.”

Makeshift tents have been set up on the edge of hills and in open fields to house displaced families.

People are worried pro-government forces will storm Idlib.

Rebels say, however, that the Syrian army’s campaign in the area aims to recapture a military airport and lift the siege on two pro-government villages.

But whatever happens in the fighting, many people fear they will have to live out in the open for a long time, which is especially difficult in freezing winter temperatures.

“We fled the bombardments and the air strikes,” said Um Ahmed, another displaced Syrian.

“We can’t go back because our house was hit and it is now destroyed. They are targeting civilians and their homes, not the rebels.”