UN warns of 'highly explosive' situation in Syria's Idlib

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2.5 million Syrians risk displacement inside Syria, the United Nations says following intensified battles in Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo

Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, worries that the people of Idlib will have nowhere else to go beyond Idlib if the situation escalates.
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Monday 11 June 2018 15:03 UTC
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The Syrian conflict is witnessing its highest displacement numbers since the start of the seven-year conflict, a senior United Nations official said on Monday.

"We are seeing a massive displacement inside Syria... From January to April, there were over 920,000 newly displaced people," Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told reporters in Geneva.

Moumtzis added that the world must "make sure that we don't see a similar scenario as we saw in Eastern Ghouta", which was recaptured in April by the Syrian government after a two-month offensive.

"We worry about seeing 2.5 million people becoming displaced more and more towards the border of Turkey," he said.

Following the Eastern Ghouta offensive, and the previous offensive to retake Syria's second city, Aleppo, rebels and civilians were forcibly evacuated to Idlib.

“We also worry that for the people of Idlib, there is no other Idlib to take them out to,” he added.

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"Really, this is the last location. There is no other location to further move them."

"The current composition makes (the situation) highly explosive," Moumtzis warned.

The recent displacement inside Syria brings the number of people internally displaced in the country to 6.2 million, while there are still some 5.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, according to UN figures.

Moumtzis said most of the newly displaced had been forced to move by escalations in fighting in the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta and within the northwestern province of Idlib, which remains mostly under the control of anti-government rebels and militant groups.

His comments came after several deadly air strikes in recent days in Idlib that have left dozens dead, including children.

He pointed out that Idlib is part of the de-escalation agreement for Syria reached between Turkey, Russia and Iran, and warned of the dire consequences if the province, with its some 2.5 million inhabitants, sinks into full-blown conflict.

More than 350,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.