Idlib province is waiting for the war that destroyed the rest of the country. So how many people will still flee? Who controls the province and who controls the other regions of Syria? An overview in graphics.
The Idlib province, located on the Turkish border, is the last major rebel-held area in Syria – almost two-thirds of it is ruled by al-Qaeda-affiliated group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Tens of thousands have fled to other parts of Syria since September, said Panos Moumtzis, Regional UN Coordinator for Syria in Geneva. When the forces of ruler Bashar al-Assad start their offensive, the last great battle of a long civil war will begin, in which Syria's regime with Russian and Iranian help recaptured large parts of the country from rebels and Islamists.
Hundreds of thousands of Idlib residents and IDPs left there could leave their homes. The UN warn of the consequences of such a humanitarian disaster and seek a diplomatic solution. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned last week that a battle over Idlib could lead to a "bloodbath". Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said before his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov: "We know what is at stake."
It would have to find ways to punish Islamist terrorists without jeopardizing the lives of three million people. The international community is heading for an abyss of human suffering, he said. Previously, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) had appealed: "The international community, including us, must do everything possible so that chemical weapons are not used." Assad used it deliberately and repeatedly as a terrorist instrument against its own population.
In July 2012, the Syrian government publicly acknowledged that it possessed chemical weapons. The US intelligence agencies had already assumed that chemical weapons were stored in Syria, including mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin. Investigative groups of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN stated that Syria and the terrorist militia "Islamic State" were responsible in recent years for numerous chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
According to the UN, more than 6.5 million people are in Syria, more than 5.5 million people have fled to safety outside the country. From January to July, more than one million people fled Syria from violence and military attacks. Never before in the conflict that has been raging for seven and a half years has there been such evictions.
"Tomorrow is more terrible than yesterday"
As the last rebel bastion, the Syrian idlib is on the verge of an offensive. The concern for the city is written in the face of people.
Guest contribution by Anas al-Shamy