BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian warplanes struck rebel-held towns and villages in the country’s northwest Tuesday and the World Food Program said weekslong violence has hampered some of its activities in the area.
WFP said in a statement that due to the latest wave of violence that broke out on April 30, the U.N. organization and its partners at times have had to “temporarily interrupt distributions in the southern parts of Idlib due to the conflict.”
It added that since May, WFP has not been able to reach some 7,000 people in the area of Qalaat al-Madiq that witnessed intense fighting recently.
Six weeks of violence has driven nearly 300,000 people from their homes. Many are living under olive trees, in tents or unfinished buildings, crammed into overcrowded shared rooms. Aid groups fear that figure could spiral to 700,000.
More than 300 civilians have been killed, according to opposition activists and war monitors. At least 61 children are among those killed since April, according to Save the Children, though Idlib health authorities put the figure at 75 children killed in May alone.
“There is a catastrophe unfolding in the northwest region of Syria as we speak. Constant bombardment has pushed hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes in the northern parts of Hama and the southern parts of Idlib” Marwa Awad, Syria communications officer for the U.N. food program said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Awad added that of the 300,000 people displaced, some made it to northern camps in Idlib province, but “there continues to be dozens and dozens of people who are unable to make that journey.”
“Certainly, with the ongoing conflict and insecurity that will undoubtedly trigger more and more displacement and now we know from our partners on the ground that their capacity is extremely stretched,” she said.
The opposition’s Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, reported airstrikes on different parts of Idlib province, Syria’s last major rebel stronghold in the 8-year-old civil war.
They reported dozens of airstrikes and bombardments with artillery and rockets on rebel-held areas in Idlib, including the towns of Khan Sheikhoun and Maaret al-Numan.