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Over 230,000 people flee Idlib during Russian-backed offensive - UN

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on December 27, 2019 - Duration: 01:53s

Over 230,000 people flee Idlib during Russian-backed offensive - UN

The United Nations said 235,000 civilians had fled their homes in rebel-held northwestern Syria during a Russian-backed campaign of air strikes and shelling this month.

Yahaira Jacquez reports.

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Over 230,000 people flee Idlib during Russian-backed offensive - UN

Omar Hayfan says he and his family fled for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their back when the airstrikes started.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DISPLACED MAN, OMAR HAFYAN, SAYING : "We were sitting at night and suddenly we were hit by missiles during the night.

The next day, we left everything behind and left, because of the intensity of the air strikes." Hayfan is one of more than 230,000 civilians who have fled their homes in rebel-held northwestern Syria, since a Russian backed campaign of air strikes and shelling started this month.

That's according to the United Nations - who says the exodus had taken place between December 12 and 25.

Its office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said most had fled the city of Maarat al-Numan.

That's where Hayfan, his wife and children had their home, in an area that - according to the UN - is reportedly almost empty.

Still - Syrian forces continue to close in on it, since taking Maarat al-Numan would take the Syrian army into densely populated rebel-held parts of Idlib province, where millions of people who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria have taken refuge.

The Russian and Syrian advance toward Idlib is also piling pressure on Turkey, which has a presence in the area and is seen by many civilians as a protector against Russian strikes.

But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his country cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria.

Moscow and Damascus deny claims of indiscriminate bombing of civilians, saying say they are fighting terrorists.

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