UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Russia and Turkey on Tuesday to “stabilize the situation” as the intense fighting continues between rebel and Syrian government forces in northwest Syria.
“I am deeply concerned about the escalation of the fighting in Idlib, and the situation is especially dangerous given the involvement of an increased number of actors. Yet again, civilians are paying a horrific price,” Guterres told reporters, according to AFP.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock claimed that several hospitals don’t share their locations with forces to avoid becoming a target.
“Hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN’s deconfliction system is simply intolerable. A number of partners now feel that supplying geographical coordinates to be given to the warring parties effectively paints a target on their backs,” Lowcock said.
“Since late April, the World Health Organization confirmed 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in northwest Syria,” he said. Lowcock claimed that two of the facilities were located in areas controlled by the Syrian government. He also told the UN Security Council later on Tuesday that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorizing people in the region.
On 17 September 2018, Russia and Turkey signed The Sochi agreement in an attempt to create a buffer zone.
The agreement stated that “the cease-fire in the Idlib region will be preserved with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region,” but the deal has faltered in recent months, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee as Russia continues to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey continues to back rebels.
“We decisively reject any accusation of indiscriminate strikes. We’re not carrying out attacks on civilians,” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said, and questioned the sources of the UN information.
“Syrians and allies do not target schools or hospitals,” Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said as he defended his country, Reuters reported. Idlib in northwest Syria is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight years of civil war.
Russian backed Syrian forces target Turkish army outposts in the region. At least 300,000 people have been driven from their homes due to the violence, while more than 300 civilians have been killed since fighting broke out in the area.