The Assad regime and its ally Russia have launched an unprecedented military campaign against the people of Maarat al-Numan city in Idlib province. Home to at least 70,000 civilians, the city is being subjected to continuous airstrikes and heavy artillery fire. The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that 71 civilians were killed between the 17th and the 21st of this month in indiscriminate attacks so far, whilst many more have been injured. Casualties and fatalities are expected to rise.
The majority of Maarat al-Numan and the surrounding areas’ residents are internally displaced people who have already fled their homes in other parts of Syria following previous regime assaults over the last eight years. This time, there is no place left for these people to flee to. Observers believe the regime’s offensive is part of a plan to bring the M4 and M5 highways of southern Idlib under its control. If successful, North-West Syria’s near 4 million residents will be pushed into a small strip of land near the Turkish border—a border that remains shut. In that scenario, civilians will be trapped and forced to face an unknown fate at the hands of the Assad dictatorship—a dictatorship that has already demonstrated a track record of carrying out mass incarcerations, torture and industrial scale killings of populations resident in the areas it captures. The people of NorthWest Syria are thus under threat of being exterminated.
The Syrian British Council calls on the UK government, and its international partners, to once and for all, take decisive action to stop the Assad regime and its foreign allies from carrying out what could be an atrocity at a genocidal scale.