Three U.N. Security Council members have put forward a draft resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, which has been enduring an intensified Russia-backed Syrian government military campaign since April.
"Over the last four months the ongoing military campaign, using continuous airstrikes, shelling and reportedly barrel bombs, has caused immense human suffering and took an enormous toll on the population," Belgium Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve said Thursday. He and the ambassadors of Germany and Kuwait oversee the council's work on humanitarian efforts in Syria and jointly called for the council to act.
"Today we call for the council to urgently take a unified stance with us against this violence that has caused so much human suffering," he said. "This situation cannot continue."
Pecsteen de Buytswerve said the draft text circulated to council members calls for a cease-fire, respect for international humanitarian law and humanitarian access.
Civilians at risk
The U.N. estimates that at least 500 civilians, including many children, have been killed and hundreds more injured since April. Civilian sites, including dozens of health facilities, schools, water stations and markets, have been affected by the fighting. Some 3 million people, two-thirds of them women and children, live in Idlib.
Several council members, including the United States, declared they would support the draft resolution. But its adoption is not assured, as the Russian delegate questioned who was responsible for the humanitarian crisis in the country.
"Today's meeting, unfortunately, is a textbook example of the general picture of how the Syrian issue has been discussed in the Security Council," said Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy. "We see that humanitarian problems are distorted — they certainly do exist — we are also very concerned by what is happening. However, having said that, we very much understand that the primary reason for them … is not activity of the regime and their partners, but rather the activities of terrorists who are working in the area."
'Razed to the ground'
The situation in Idlib has continued to worsen.
"Over the last three weeks, since the collapse of the conditional cease-fire on 5 August, dozens of communities have emptied out in northern Hama and southern Idlib," U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the council. "Satellite imagery shows that entire towns and villages have been razed to the ground."
He said families that were able to were fleeing north, deeper into Idlib Governorate, closer to the Turkish border.
"We cannot turn back the clock on what has happened, but this council and its members can take meaningful action now to protect civilians and ensure full respect for international humanitarian law," Lowcock urged. "It is within your power to do that."