A disaster in Syria as Russia and Turkey clash
For years, Syria’s besieged province of Idlib has served as a final haven for those escaping forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. But they are now running out of places to go. Turkey, which already hosts upward of 3.6 million Syrian refugees, has closed its border, even as it threatens to launch a retaliatory campaign against Assad’s regime.
Convoys of civilians have snaked their way out of Idlib’s cities as regime artillery and Russian aircraft pounded what they say are rebel positions. Hundreds have been killed since the offensive began, while eyewitness reports suggest the regime and its allies have indiscriminately targeted schools, health facilities and mosques in a “scorched earth” advance that has ravaged dozens of towns. The current movement of people is the largest human exodus since a 2017 campaign carried out by Myanmar’s military forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek sanctuary in neighboring Bangladesh.
Then there’s the brutal cold. Last week alone, more than a dozen refugees died of exposure. Aid workers, mostly operating from across the border in Turkey, say they are overwhelmed and warn of a dire shortage of tents. Potable water is in short supply and sanitation facilities are mostly nonexistent as fleeing civilians set up ramshackle camps in the depths of the Syrian winter.