BEIRUT, ANKARA: Syrian regime troops on Tuesday pressed an offensive on the country’s last major opposition enclave where the mass displacement of civilians is sparking fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Around 900,000 people have been forced from their homes and shelters in less than three months, leaving huge numbers to sleep rough in the thick of winter.
The UN said that half a million among them were children, some of whom have died of exposure in snow-covered camps.
“Over the past four days alone, some 43,000 newly displaced people have fled western Aleppo where fighting has been particularly fierce,” UN spokesman David Swanson said.
Since the start of February, the displacement figure was a staggering 300,000, he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the creation of humanitarian corridors, expressing horror at the regime offensive.
“No shelter is now safe. And as the government offensive continues and people are forced into smaller and smaller pockets, I fear even more people will be killed,” Michelle Bachelet said.
Bachelet was “horrified” by the unfolding humanitarian crisis, a statement said. “How can anyone justify carrying out such indiscriminate and inhumane attacks?” Bachelet said.
Tuesday’s violence left at least two civilians dead. A member of regime-backer Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was killed in Aleppo province in a rocket strike.
According to Save The Children, seven children — including a baby only seven months old — have died from freezing temperatures and bad living conditions in the camps.
“We’re worried that the death toll will increase given the absolutely inhumane living conditions that women and children are finding themselves in,” the charity’s Syria director Sonia Khush said.
Meanwhile, Turkey will deploy more troops to Idlib and retaliate against attacks by regime forces there, even as Ankara continues to discuss the situation with Moscow, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.