UN calls for civilian protection in northwestern Syria

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls for urgent de-escalation of the situation as Ramazan begins


Afp May 07, 2019
PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the warring parties in Syria's northwest, where the Syrian government and its ally Russia have stepped up bombardments, to protect civilians and respect a ceasefire.

The clashes killed 43 fighters and five civilians on Monday alone, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

Guterres "urges all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians," a statement read.

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"He calls for an urgent de-escalation of the situation as the holy month of Ramadan begins and urges the parties to recommit fully to the ceasefire arrangements of the memorandum signed on 17 September 2018."

Guterres also pressed the Astana process guarantors -- Iran, Russia and Turkey -- to ensure that these steps are taken.

Idlib province and adjacent territories, including Hama, are dominated by al Qaeda's former Syrian branch, Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS).

The UN statement noted that three health facilities were reportedly hit by air strikes on Sunday -- for a total of at least seven hit since April 28.

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Nine schools have also been hit since April 30, and many schools in the area have closed their doors indefinitely.

Guterres "is following with great concern the intensifying hostilities in the de-escalation area of northwestern Syria involving Syrian government forces and their allies, armed opposition forces and Hayat Tahrir al Sham," the statement read.

"He is alarmed by reports of aerial attacks on population centers and civilian infrastructure resulting in hundreds of civilian dead and injured and over 150,000 newly displaced persons."
More than 370,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, which began in 2011 during a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

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