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Press Release

Fears for tens of thousands of Syrians stuck along the Golan Heights as fighting closes in

  • Health teams treating children stung by scorpions or bitten by snakes despite lack of anti-venom
  • Thousands living under the trees at the border with the Golan Heights in searing temperatures

There are urgent concerns for the safety of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped between a rapidly reducing stretch of land along the Golan Heights and an advancing Syrian army, supported by Russian airstrikes.

With reports of combat and bombardment less than 10 miles from the border, there is an acute fear that civilians in this part of Quneitra, which includes around 160,000 people who fled to the area earlier this month, will soon be caught in the middle of intense fighting.

The IRC estimates that around 5 percent of the displaced people are living out in the open with only trees to provide shelter. The UN has said that 70 percent lack proper tents, toilets or enough clean water. Only around 25 percent are thought to be receiving enough food.

Mark Schnellbaecher, the International Rescue Committee’s Middle East Region Vice President, said: “There really is nowhere else for these people to go and seek safety. They can hear the fighting getting closer and worry it’s only a matter of time before the front line reaches them. At the border they have had to survive in desert-like conditions at the height of the Syrian summer. IRC-supported health teams are dealing with regular cases of children bitten by snakes or stung by scorpions, made worse by depleting anti-venom stocks because fresh medical supplies haven’t been allowed to enter from Jordan. There needs to be an immediate end to both the bombardment and fighting so that those most in need can be reached.”

The International Rescue Committee has provided financial assistance to around 2,500 recently displaced Syrian families along the border with the Golan Heights to help them cover the cost of spiraling food and fuel prices. The IRC continues to support three health clinics that remain operational in southern Syria and recently provided several clinics with enough fuel to continue operating for the next two weeks. This response comes despite displacement of over half the IRC’s staff inside southern Syria because of the fighting.

The IRC provided health care to over 250,000 people in southern Syria in 2017, as well as helping a further 50,000 people gain an income, 1,000 people regain essential legal documents and over 800 children learn how to read, write and do math.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.