GENEVA - The United Nations says nearly 200,000 people displaced by five weeks of fighting in southern Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, but access to them is severely limited.
An assault by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies has succeeded in dislodging rebels from most of the territory they controlled in southwest Syria. Five weeks of airstrikes and barrel bombings have caused more than 182,000 people in the governorates of Dara'a, Quneitra and Sweida to flee their homes.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said people are living in dire circumstances and urgently need life-saving assistance. While concern for their well-being is rising, the situation of some 55,000 civilians trapped in a stretch of land near the Golan area is becoming increasingly alarming.
OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said the 200-square-kilometer area near the Jordanian border remains under the control of a group affiliated with Islamic State.
"We, of course, are very concerned about this particular group's policy of restricting freedom of movement for civilians who are trying to leave the area and only a very limited number of civilians have been able to escape. … Those who remain behind are subject to heightened hostilities," he said.
For instance between July 21 and 23, Laerke said, airstrikes in the area reportedly killed at least 32 civilians, including women and children.
He said agencies also worry about another group of some 100,000 civilians near Golan Heights who face hostilities and have no access to aid. He said the U.N. was forced to suspend cross-border humanitarian convoys from Jordan to the area more than one month ago because of the deteriorating situation in Syria.
Warehouses that once were stocked with food and other relief supplies now are nearly empty, he added.