Amman, Jordan, November 2, 2023 — Increasing hostilities in the north of Syria have resulted in a devastating increase in the numbers of civilian deaths, injuries and displacement over the past month. According to the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria this is the worst surge in violence in the country at any point since 2020. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, adopt all measures necessary to protect civilians from harm, and to ensure the ability of humanitarian actors to continue to support those in need.
The escalation has resulted in the wide-scale destruction of vital civilian infrastructure and threatened access to essential services for hundreds of thousands of people, including water, electricity, and lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
In the northwest of Syria, attacks since October 4th have caused 70 deaths, including 27 children, and caused the displacement of over 120,000 people. Continuous shelling and airstrikes have struck more than 2,300 locations in northwest Syria's Idleb and western Aleppo. While 43 health facilities, including maternity and child hospitals and multiple primary healthcare centers have been impacted. Other affected critical facilities and infrastructure include 24 schools and over 20 water systems.
Elsewhere in northeast Syria there has also been a significant increase in aerial strikes over the same time period. At the time of issuance, a total of 58 strikes have been verified by the northeast Syria NGO Forum, leading to major damage to water and power stations that civilians in these areas rely on. Many of the attacks have occurred close to populated villages and Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps.
Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Country Director in Syria, said:
“It is now nearly one month since the onset of the ongoing escalation of violence in northern Syria. These attacks are a stark reminder that the crisis in Syria continues to prove deadly to already vulnerable communities caught in its grip. The latest violence has caused destruction to homes forcing many who were already displaced to once again flee in search of safety.
The escalation is disrupting the ability of humanitarian organizations, like the IRC, to provide critical life-saving assistance to those in need. In the northwest of Syria 90% of the population is reliant on humanitarian assistance to survive. The IRC, and many other organizations, have at various points during the last month had to make the hard choice to temporarily suspend activities in areas affected for the safety of our staff, impacting our ability to meet urgent life-saving needs. Thirty-two of our staff have themselves been displaced due to the violence, and tragically three humanitarian workers from local Syrian organizations have lost their lives in this wave of violence. Across the northwest and northeast of the country critical facilities such as power stations, health facilities and schools have been affected by the attacks, all of which are protected under international humanitarian law.
All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, to protect civilians from harm, and ensure the humanitarian response can continue to deliver to those who desperately need it.”
The IRC calls on the international community to take effective and collective actions to ensure that parties to the conflict end this current wave of violence. All parties to the conflict must adhere to their obligations under IHL to protect civilians, civilian infrastructure and ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian workers in affected areas. Only a political solution to the crisis will ensure a path to sustainable peace in Syria.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- In March 2020 a ceasefire was agreed that has brought reduced conflict activity to the northwest of the country. However, while conflict levels in Syria remain lower than at the peak of the war, the level of violence in the country has been rising since the last quarter of 2021, reflecting a persistent risk of escalations in fighting.
- The IRC has been working in Syria since 2012, responding to needs in northwest and northeast Syria. The IRC promotes economic recovery with job training, apprenticeships and small business support. Our teams support early childhood development and provide counseling and protection services for women and children, particularly for survivors of violence. We support health facilities and mobile health teams with critical trauma services and primary, reproductive and mental health services. We also support Syrian refugees in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan. Learn more about the IRC’s Syria response.