120K Syrians Displaced in Center of Russian Activity in One Month, UN Says

Figure more than double earlier estimate

Syrian refugees are helped into Turkey / AP
October 27, 2015

Upwards of 120,000 Syrians were displaced in October in the center of the area from which Syrian government forces, aided by Russian airstrikes, are launching a ground offensive, the United Nations said Monday.

The number of individuals displaced in Syria’s Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib governorates between Oct. 5 and Oct. 22 is more than twice the initial estimate of 50,000.

Reuters reported:

In its first report on the humanitarian impact of the offensive, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also said several hospitals had been hit from the air and women and children had been killed by cluster bombs. The report also noted that a push by Islamic State fighters had cut the road from Hama to Aleppo on Oct. 23, putting 700,000 people in government controlled areas of western Aleppo city at risk, it said, without elaborating. ... It also showed seven areas described as concentrations of Russian air strikes, five of them in the zone controlled by armed opposition forces and insurgent group Al-Nusra, one in the Islamic State-controlled area, and one in a contested zone.

Russia has insisted that the goal of its military intervention in Syria is to combat the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS), claiming that it has destroyed over 800 terrorist targets since it began launching airstrikes in Syria at the end of September. However, the United States believes that Moscow is also targeting Syrian rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Russia is a strong ally to Assad. Many of Moscow’s airstrikes in Syria have not hit areas controlled by IS, instead appearing to target CIA-backed Syrian rebels in the country.

The number of Syrians displaced in the Hama and Idlib governorates in October is at least 80,000 and could be over 100,000, according to the U.N. report. In Aleppo, the number is at least 44,568.

"Eyewitnesses have recounted incidents of civilians vacating entire villages in anticipation of further government expansion in the area. Al-Hader, a town of 25,000 people, has been completely emptied out over the last week," the report read.

Over 6 million Syrians have been displaced in the four years of civil war there. Refugees have been fleeing to other countries in the Middle East and to Europe and the United States to escape the conflict.

President Obama ordered the government in September to admit at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the United States in fiscal year 2016.