Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 67, 8 April 2020

Syria: New UN Report on Idlib
Sukanya Bali

In the news

On 6 April, the United Nations released a report that investigated the incidents in northwest Syria since 17 September 2017 after the signing of the Memorandum on Stabilisation of the situation in Idlib de-escalation area between Russia and Turkey.

Issues at large

According to the report, the board investigated six specific attacks on schools, health centres, and refugee camps in the region. The UN-led inquiry was headed by Lt.Gen Chikadibia Obiakor, a former military advisor in the Department of Peacekeeping Operation.

The sites that were attacked and included in the investigation are: Martyr Akram Ibrahim Al-Ahmad Secondary School on 28 April, Rakaya primary health care centre on 3 May, Kafr Nabutha Primary health care centre on 7 May, Nayrab Palestine refugee camp on 14 May, As-Suqylabiyah National hospital on 26 May, Kafr Nobol surgical hospital on 4 July and Ariha protection centre on 28 July.

The report gives a brief analysis of all the seven attacks and elaborates the nature of the attack, casualties and the perpetrators of violence.

Expressing concerns on the humanitarian situations, the UNSC resolution 2165 also decided to aid along with its partners the World Food Program, United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organisation, United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organisation for Migrations, Food Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Population Fund at four specific border crossings, including two at the Turkish border with northwest Syria. The basic essentials, such as water, health, and education facilities and security were focused. It also highlights the use of deconfliction information, which was shared among coalition forces of Turkey, Russian federation and Chairs of International Support Group which is transmitted to the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The report also focuses on the security of humanitarian aid workers, such as the OCHA and few opposition groups who have signed the “Declaration of Commitment to Compliance with IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and Humanitarian Assistance.” This helps in the engagement of humanitarian actors and opposition group under a set frame in order to provide protection and assistance to civilians with respect to international humanitarian law.   

The report further recommends strong implementation of international humanitarian law, capacity building, regular assessment of staff security, clear guidance on UN engagement with non-state actors, the allocation of fund and identification of resources under Syria’s cross border humanitarian fund. The report looks at various arenas and recommends a thematic cluster that would enable sharing of the information on the incidents easily and suggest OCHA to implement a flexible way in building records and tracking all aspects of operations.

In perspective

First, in the report, the study of each incident is vague and the accuracy of the deconfliction document fails in its purpose to provide the data. Second, the report falls short of directly blaming actors involved in the attacks, even though Russia has carried out several attacks on schools, hospitals, and other civilian sites. Third, the report only looked into specific attacks and didn’t investigate the 595 attacks since 2011.

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