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Syria: Reported phosphorus bombings spark new fears for population of Idlib, already reeling from recent attacks

The reported phosphorus bombings last night have sparked new fears among the population of Idlib, already reeling from recent attacks, says Islamic Relief which has aid operations in the area.

It was reported that some 40 bombs loaded with white phosphorus were fired in Khan Shaikhun in an area that was largely evacuated as a result of previous attacks and there were no casualties reported. But Islamic Relief staff say that some people are still living in farms and rural areas close to the bombing site as they do not have the means to leave.

Islamic Relief’s Country Director for Syria, Ahmed Mahmoud[i], said:

“People are already reeling after a string of recent attacks in Idlib but these phosphorus bombs have sparked fears that they could spread to populated areas. The world cannot be silent about these systemic and brutal attacks and the enforced displacement that follows.”

Islamic Relief teams on the ground in Idlib highlight that there is only one health facility in the region that has the capacity to manage burns that result from such attacks and will definitely not be able to cope with a huge number of injuries, especially chemical burns.

The Islamic Relief team in Idlib also heard big explosions last night which were later confirmed as heavy rocket attacks on cities and villages in rural idlib and western Aleppo. In addition airstrikes also targeted Kafar Ameem camp for displaced families in Eastern Idlib, causing the deaths of two women and injuries to 19 people, mainly women and children.

These attacks are leading to massive displacement. According to Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster data compiled by the UN and a coalition of aid groups on the ground, 70,000 people have been displaced between 1 February and 10 March, 2019.

“The people of Syria have endured eight years of crisis and still it continues. How much more do you think the Syrian people can take?” adds Ahmed Mahmoud.

“People in Idlib have fled for their lives time and time again and are now living in deplorable living conditions in the freezing cold, traumatised and reduced to begging to be able to feed their families. They deserve more.”

Many hospitals and health centres have been affected by the airstrikes in Idlib or have been forced to close down because of lack of funding and staff.

A staff member in Idlib reported that health staff are calling Islamic Relief in desperation as they are no longer able to function but the level of need from patients who have been injured in recent attacks is overwhelming.

Ahmed Mahmoud added:

“There is a huge sense of panic now in Idlib as more health facilities are forced to close and attacks are escalating. And any phosphorous attacks on civilians will have horrible consequences, with hospitals not being able to cope and deliver the life-saving treatment that people will urgently need. Wherever they are and regardless of who is controlling them, people must not be targeted by the parties to the conflict and they must have access to life-saving healthcare. The international community must step up efforts to ensure that aid continues to reach those in crisis.”


For more information, new photos, case studies and video from Idlib or interviews, contact Louise Orton on +44 7939 141 764 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors

  • More info on the situation in Idlib is available in this more detailed press release issued at 00.01 GMT 13 March 2019
  • New personal stories, photo and video footage available from Idlib
  • Islamic Relief is one of the largest aid providers in Syria (and to refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey) and continues to operate directly on the ground in Idlib.
  • By the latest estimates, 6.2 million Syrians are living in protracted displacement in the country and 5.7 million have fled as refugees. Of the 6.2m displaced, 1.5 million, are in Idlib.
  • In 2018, we assisted almost 2.5m people across Syria with a range of services from health and education, to food and livelihood support.
  • Since the start of the crisis in 2011, we have helped funded more than £248 million worth of aid and assistance to Syria and helped more than four million Syrians inside and outside the country.

[i] Name has been changed to protect identity

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