Syrian government defends Idlib campaign, condemns France

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters

Almost 100,000 people have been displaced since early December by fighting in northwestern Syria, where the regime is waging an offensive against jihadis, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official profile], Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, on Wednesday condemned [press release] the rise in civilian casualties in the Eastern Ghouta region of Syria resulting from the recent increase in airstrikes and ground-based attacks by government forces and its allies, highlighting that all parties are "obliged under worldwide law to distinguish between lawful military targets, and civilians and civilian objects".

Idlib province is nearly entirely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

The fighting has seen 99,569 civilians flee southern Idlib as well as north and northeastern parts of neighboring Hama province between December 1 and Tuesday, said the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination office, UNOCHA.

"I also deeply anxious about civilians affected by the upsurge in violence in Idlib.", he said.

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Already host to 3 million refugees from the six-year-old conflict, Turkey fears a further influx across its border from Idlib.

Backed by Russian strikes, Syrian government forces have escalated military operations against Eastern Ghouta in recent months. The attack also aims to secure the road liking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest.

More than 340,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, which began in 2011 as the regime brutally crushed anti-government protests.

He said his organization is seeking 3.5 billion US dollars from donors to meet the needs of more than 13 million people in all parts of Syria in 2018.

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