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Airstrikes in Syria

Isolated airstrikes won’t save Syrian lives: what Trump can do to help

The Trump administration and its allies have launched airstrikes in Syria following a suspected chemical attack on April 7 that killed dozens of people in Douma. This military action could lead to an escalation that puts more civilians in harm’s way. Here are three options to save Syrian lives now:

1. Resettle more Syrian refugees

If the Trump administration truly cares about the fate of Syrian civilians, it can do far better in resettling Syrian refugees. More than 40 people were reportedly killed in the suspected chemical attack on Douma, in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. That is as many Syrians who have been admitted to the United States as refugees this year.

Only 44 Syrians fleeing war have found safety in the U.S. since October 2017. That’s a 99 percent drop from the same period last year when the U.S. welcomed 6,557 Syrian refugees to rebuild their lives—of whom 44 percent were children under 14.

In all, no more than 23,000 refugees will be resettled in the U.S this year, according to International Rescue Committee projections—at least 76 percent below the historic annual average. If this downward trend continues, the U.S. refugee resettlement program may disappear altogether. The U.S. must reverse course and meet its commitment to resettle 45,000 refugees in 2018.

2. Protect civilians and provide aid

The U.S. must urge fellow members of the United Nations Security Council to make the protection of civilians and accountability for violations of international humanitarian law their number one priority.

Hospitals and medical facilities continue to be targets of barrel bombs, mortars and airstrikes. People living in besieged and hard to reach areas with cancer and chronic illnesses such as a kidney disease and diabetes are dying without access to treatment.

Syrian boy in underground bunker by the stairs

Many families in Eastern Ghouta moved underground into cellars and bunkers, to try to stay safe during months of bombardment.

Photo: Abdullah Hammam/IRC

After more than seven years of war, over 13 million people across Syria require urgent humanitarian assistance. In Idlib province alone, some 1.7 million are in desperate need of food, health care, and safe shelter live in fear of intensified bombardment.

And most of the 5.5 million Syrian refugees who fled to neighboring countries live in poverty, unable to work and struggling to afford health care, rent, or school for their children.

3. End the war in Syria

The U.S. military response to the chemical attack last year in southern Idlib that is thoughts to have killed around 70 people did not change the course of the war or make Syrian civilians safer.

An isolated U.S. strike in response to the Douma attack in the absence of a long-term diplomatic strategy could lead to an uncontrollable escalation that puts more civilians in harm’s way and pushes peace further out of reach.

How the IRC helps Syria

Across Syria, the International Rescue Committee has more than 700 staff providing lifesaving support to over 1.1 million people every year—almost half of them children—who are struggling to survive a brutal war now in its eighth year. Learn more about our work.

Donate Now: Help the IRC provide vital aid to families in Syria, and in 40 countries around the world.

Learn more

The humanitarian impact of airstrikes: IRC president David Miliband interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Apr. 14