08/30/2019, 11.03
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UN: three million civilians at risk in the Russian-Syrian offensive in Idlib

Of these, at least two thirds are women and children. United Nations special envoy says fight against "terrorism" no justificiation for serious danger facing population. A resolution for the ceasefire in the region is under study. Moscow ready to exercise veto. Of 400,000 displaced people, half live outdoors or in makeshift shelters.



Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Syrian government's "counter-terrorism" operations carried out with the support Russia in the context of the offensive in Idlib, the last stronghold of jihadists and rebels, can in no way justify the serious danger posed to three million civilians, who risk their lives. This is the alarm launched yesterday by UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, during a meeting at the UN Security Council in New York.

The diplomat stressed that extremist attacks "must end" but, at the same time, military operations "cannot endanger three million civilians" who must be able to benefit from "protection under humanitarian law". This is why all the activities that cause "deaths and displaced persons" in the context of the population "must cease immediately".

According to United Nations estimates, over 550 civilian deaths and up to 400,000 displaced people have been recorded since the beginning of hostilities in northwest Syria. At least half of the people who have had to leave their homes live in the open air or under trees, in makeshift and inadequate shelters in view of the cold season.

On the initiative of Belgium, Kuwait and Germany, the UN Security Council will have to vote - but the date is yet to be set - a resolution requiring the immediate ceasefire in northwest Syria. Thisis coupled with the need to protect all civilian infrastructure, also and above all medical clinics and hospitals. Finally, the text provides for the possibility of humanitarian access without restrictions throughout the national territory.

Moscow, an ally of Damascus on the ground, through its deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitri Polyanskiy, underlined "the impression" that "whenever there are military initiatives on the ground, there are projects like this" that aim to stop the fight against terrorists and jihadists. The Kremlin reserves the right to study the text thoroughly and exercise a veto right as it has already done dozens of times in the past.

The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Lowcock, also spoke on the issue, stressing that the Security Council "can take measures" to "protect civilians and ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law". He then recalled that among the three million civilians under siege and at risk in Idlib province, two-thirds are women and children. "There is no justification," the UN high diplomat concluded, for attacks on hospitals, schools, markets or treatment facilities.

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