‘Playing with fire’: Push on Idlib threatens millions, UN says

Fresh fighting in northwest Syria after the collapse of a brief ceasefire is threatening “the lives of millions of civilians”, the United Nations has said, warning that the situation risks “coming out of control”.

Backed by Russia, the Syrian government this week renewed its offensive on Idlib province, the country’s last major rebel-held stronghold.

The UN has raised a specific alarm about the risks of an enormous government push in the area because Idlib has for several years served as a reception zone for those escaping advances by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad elsewhere in Syria. Nearly half of the three million people living there are already displaced from other parts of the war-ravaged country, with more than one million being children.

“A new wave of violence is again threatening the lives of millions of civilians who live in the Idlib area,” Najat Rochdi, the senior humanitarian adviser to the UN’s Syria envoy, said in a statement on Thursday.

“During the lull in the fighting, many civilians had returned to their homes and are currently in areas where heavy attacks have resumed putting them at great risk.”