Geneva, Switzerland

18 December 2019

Note to Correspondents: Statement Attributable to Ms. Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, on the Escalation of Violence in the Idlib Area

Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Ms. Najat Rochdi condemns the recent intensification of hostilities in northwest Syria, in particular aerial bombardments and the reported use of barrel bombs, killing tens of civilians including women and children. 

Despite repeated assurances that warring parties only strike legitimate military targets, attacks on health and education facilities continue. Ms. Rochdi calls for immediate de-escalation and urges all parties to respect their obligations under international law, including the obligation to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Counter-terrorism operations cannot override responsibilities to protect civilians. Ms. Rochdi emphasizes that civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected at all times and that sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must be guaranteed in order to allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to continue to carry out their critical work across northern Syria. 

People in these areas face significant hardship in exposed conditions. They are displaced, some of them for the fifth to the tenth time, many to over-crowded camps where humanitarian services are already overstretched. This comes amidst winter rains and dropping temperatures, and as flooding is threatening internally displaced persons camps and settlements.