Sunday, 15 September 2019

Idlib chaos forces displaced Syrians into strange dwellings of abandoned buses, caves

 'Inside a rusty, abandoned bus in north-western Syria, Ms Umm Joumaa washes a silver tray and glass teacups, light pouring into her makeshift kitchen through broken windows.

 Around her, towels, bedsheets, clothes and plastic bags hang from wires that stretch across the smashed-out vehicle where the 44-year-old widow lives with her six children.

 "We used to live in Al-Shariaa," she said, referring to a village in the north-western province of Hama.

 "My home was hit once, and then hit a second time, while we were living there," she added, saying that this forced her to flee to olive groves in the neighbouring province of Idlib.

 Now, she lives in the village of Birat Armanaz in western Idlib, in a bus riddled with holes, its interior cleared of all furnishings.

 "We cleaned the bus and I settled here with my children," said Ms Joumaa, whose husband was killed seven months ago by artillery fire from the Syrian regime.

 Her set-up is rudimentary: Foam mattresses and thick blankets are arranged at the rear, while a kettle and basic utensils are stored inside a plastic crate.

 Water containers and firewood are propped against the mangled front bumper.

 In a tight cave near the Turkish border, Mr Abu Ahmad and his young son chip away at stone walls with metal rods and hammers.

 The 49-year-old father of three has dug a cave for his family in the village of Kafr Lusin, three months after fleeing bombardment of his hometown of Termala, south of Idlib.

 "I had dug a cave in Termala where we were living throughout the revolution, so I had the idea of digging a cave here as well," Mr Ahmad said.

 "There, I dug a cave out of fear of air strikes and bombing, but here, it's out of fear of the cold," he added.

 Mr Ahmad said the cave is a better place to live than a tent, especially in winter or during periods of heavy bombardment.

 "The tent does not protect you, not in summer or winter," he said.

 "I want to make this cave big enough for my whole family," he added, his face red from hours of hard labour.

 Sitting cross-legged on a large green carpet on the cave's floor, his wife lamented her losses.

 "We spent our entire lives working, struggling, building - and then, in an instant, a war plane destroyed our house with one missile," said Ms Khadija, pillows and mattresses stacked behind her.

 Overhead, a green water cooler hangs from a metal rod.

 A handful of cooking utensils are kept in a plastic container and, besides a few spices and pickles stored in water bottles, there is not much else.

 "Look around, this is where I live, this is my life," she said. "This is the alternative to a home." '

Abu Ahmad, a displaced Syrian from Termala sits with his family inside a cave he dug for shelter near the Syria-Turkey border, on Sept 9, 2019.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Iran supplies oil to Syria’s al-Assad in return for influence: Cut the supply line

 Bassam Barabandi:

 'Iran’s supply of oil to the al-Assad régime allows it to continue killing Syrian citizens and buys Iran influence in Syria and the region.

 The ongoing disputes surrounding the Adrian Darya I, the Iranian oil tanker previously detained in Gibraltar and now thought to have offloaded its oil in Syria, has brought renewed attention to Tehran’s supply of oil to the al-Assad régime.

 Through this supply line, Iran has tightened its control over the al-Assad régime, which needs Iranian oil to demonstrate it can run the country and to provide its supporters with basic daily needs such as gasoline and electricity.

 Syria has suffered from fuel crises over the years, driven by overreliance on Iranian oil. In 2015, the government’s introduction of rationing following electricity shortages provoked rare criticism from loyalists, who accused the government of corruption and being unable to run the country. This year, this crisis has worsened, with continued fuel shortages, especially during winter 2019 when millions of Syrians did not have enough fuel to cook their food or heat their homes.

 These crises served as an Iranian lesson to the régime – proving that it depends on Iran to survive, not only militarily but also economically. Since losing control of the Syrian oilfields to ISIS in 2012, the al-Assad régime has been reliant on Iran for fuel. From 2013 to late 2018, Iran shipped an average of two million barrels a month to the Syrian régime. Iran allowed the régime to defer payments. As a recent report on the oil crisis written by a Middle East Institute macroeconomics expert, Karam Shaar, concludes: “Without a steady supply of crude oil from Iran, the régime of Bashar al-Assad would have faced a complete economic collapse.”

 In return, the régime has granted Iran important economic, cultural and military investments in Syria. Economically, Iran has been investing in Syrian infrastructure ranging from building and managing ports to collaborating with the régime on telecommunications projects. It recently gained a contract to build 200,000 housing units in a south Damascus suburb. Culturally, the al-Assad régime has allowed Iran to promote Shiism; al-Assad issued a decree authorizing the teaching of Shiism in Syrian schools and opened the country’s first Shiite public school in 2014. Militarily, Iran not only has access to Syrian régime military bases, but satellite images from Image Sat International recently suggested that it is also constructing the largest military base in Syria, the Imam Ali compound, close to the Iraqi border.

 Al-Assad has also allowed Iran to have its own militias and to establish pro-Iranian groups in Syria similar to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s al-Nujaba. These Iranian proxies will be too strong for any future Syrian government to combat – even if al-Assad remains in power.

 And there are signs that Iranian influence in Syria is expanding. Hossein Salami, the newly appointed commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has called for the IRGC to expand against its “enemies” in Syria, while Iranian chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said that his country is building a new naval base on the Syrian coast. The Syrian régime has reportedly given an Iranian company close to the IRGC the contract to build a new port in the city of Tartus, which could be the destination for future oil shipments.

 These benefits, which far exceed the direct financial profit from selling oil, explain the importance Iran placed on freeing the Adrian Darya 1 from its detainment in Gibraltar.

 Tehran used all available means to try to regain control of the tanker, including bullying and threats connected to its nuclear program. It officially pledged that oil would not go to the Assad régime. But it did. The ship changed its name and flag and then headed toward Syria, contrary to all of Iran’s written pledges to the British authorities. For those who still trust Iran’s pledges, the Adrian Darya incident exposes the untrustworthy nature of the régime.

 In response, the US sanctioned Adrian Darya 1 and its captain for enabling the IRGC to “ship and transfer large volumes of oil … to fund the régime’s malign activities and propagate terrorism.”

 International efforts to break al-Assad’s supply line should be supported. If Iran continues to be able to move freely in Syria under the cover of supporting the Assad régime, it can be expected to try to extend its control over Syrian resources, including close to the Israeli border. The more entrenched Iran is in Syria, the stronger its hand is to blackmail the international community in any upcoming negotiations.

 Preventing Iran from propping up the al-Assad régime with oil is in the long-term interests of the Syrian people and the wider Middle East because it undermines the malign Iranian project to dominate the region.

 The policy of sanctions therefore must continue.

 The US should also convince regional countries and the international community of the importance of finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, which restrains Iranian behavior without giving Iran financial incentives. Enriching Iran allows it to continue funding its proxies and solidify its influence across the region.

 Consequently, the international community must approach the reconstruction of Syria with care. Any investment, however small, by the international community, UN, or NGOs in infrastructure or aid projects in the areas controlled by the Syrian régime will only benefit the Iranian project, especially considering it helps relieve Iran and al-Assad from sanctions pressure. The régime is not only selectively reconstructing loyal areas, but it continues to control which areas receive UN aid. For example, when it previously denied aid to rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

 Instead, alongside sanctions, the international community should press the régime to implement Security Council resolution 2254 - which calls for a political settlement in Syria and is the first step to a solution, including the withdrawal of all foreign powers from Syrian territory. Only then, and once malign Iranian influence is fully confronted, can Syria begin its reconstruction.'

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Syrian régime destroys olive trees, crops in recaptured areas

Syrian regime destroys olive trees, crops in recaptured areas

 'Syrian régime forces began a new form of retaliation against local residents in the city of Kafr Zita in the northern Hama countryside by cutting down olive trees in the city.

 The area is known area rich in olive and pistachio trees which are estimated at 1 million trees.

 Mohammed Nayef, a citizen of the area said that the régime has prevented people from reaching the city, much of which has been reduced to rubble by régime bombardment.

 "We do not know what the real goal of the régime’s militia by cutting down trees in the agricultural land surrounding the city – perhaps for fuel," he said, although he deemed the felling of trees in the area a ‘retaliatory act’.

"If they [residents] are able to return to Kafr Zita later, they will only find destroyed houses and fallen trees."

 Madin Khalil, the head of the local council, explained that the régime forces started to fell trees in the area north of Kafr Zita, pointing out some of these trees are between 15 and 70 years old.

 Khalil added that these forces also burned wheat and barley crops during their military operations in the northern countryside of Hama and southern Idlib.

 "Many houses were burned in both Kafr Nabuda and the surrounding towns. The régime forces are deliberately vandalizing and damaging everything. It is normal for those who killed, robbed and destroyed property to burn trees and cut them,” a refugee in the area said.

 These practices were also seen in the northern countryside of Homs. Ali al-Hussein, 56, from the area, said that the régime forces burned 100 olive trees in 2015.

 Bashar al-Assad's régime has recently launched an offensive, recapturing areas in north Syria.'

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 shows significant damage to Habeet, Syria on May 26 as a result of a government offensive against the last rebel stronghold in the country. The images, provided to the Associated Press by the Colorado-based Maxar Technologies show fire still raging in olive groves and orchards during harvest season around Kfar Nabudah and Habeet, two villages on the edge of Idlib province where fighting has focused. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

Syrian churches targeted by Assad forces

Ancient church in Brad, Syria, before bombing of the site in March 2018. Via Shutterstock.

 'A new report alleges that forces loyal to the régime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are responsible for the majority of targeted attacks on churches since the country’s civil war began in 2011.

 In a report released September 9, the Syrian Network for Human Rights says that they have evidence of the Assad régime targeting of churches, mosques, and religious sites in Syria between March of 2011 and September of 2019.

 “While the régime claims that it has not committed any violations, and that it is keen on protecting the Syrian state and the rights of minorities, it has carried out qualitative operations in suppressing and terrorizing all those who sought political change and reform, regardless of religion or race, and of whether this causes the destruction of the heritage of Syria and the displacement of its minorities,” said, SNHR chairman Fadel Abdul Ghany on Monday.

 The report identifies several attacks on religious targets, included bombings of houses of worship that were not near any military installation or equipment, and the transformation of houses of worship into centers for military operations.

 The report, entitled “Targeting Christian Places of Worship in Syria is a Threat to World Heritage,” is the result of more than eight years’ work in Syrian towns and villages and obtaining reports from people on the ground and from activists, SNHR said. Sources included firsthand accounts of attacks, medical personnel who treated casualties and victims, and local activists with documented evidence of the attacks.

 SNHR report presented a list of 124 attacks on Christian “places of worship” since March of 2011.

 Seventy-five of the attacks—60 percent—came from pro-Assad forces against 48 separate Christian sites. Those forces included the Syrian army, security forces, local militias, and Shiite foreign militias.

 Thirty-three of the attacks were reportedly conducted against 21 houses of worship by factions of the armed opposition; 12 attacks were conducted by extremist Islamist groups including ISIS and Hay-at Tahrir al Sham.

 The Aleppo governorate saw the highest number of attacks on Christian churches, according to the report, followed by the Homs governorate and then the Damascus suburbs.

 The Syrian régime forces were responsible for the highest number of attacks in the Homs governorate, with 27 incidences, and a further 20 incidents in the Damascus suburbs. Opposition forces were responsible for 24 incidents in the Aleppo governorate, according to the report.

 The targeting of churches in Syria falls within the “wider context” of military forces “targeting the vital centers” of opponents, Ghany told reporters on Monday. Those targets also include other civilian institutions, including hospitals and schools.

 Bishop Nicholas James Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton told CNA that “the situation is very convoluted” in Syria and urged caution in interpreting the report's findings.

 Samra said that many Christians in the region still see Assad as the best prospect for their their own security.

 “The big fear of the Christians—the majority—is if he [Assad] goes, who will come in? And that is the big, big fear”

 While both sides targeted Christian churches, the Assad régime attacked these sites more effectively with better weapons, the report claimed.

 According to evidence taken from several of the attacks—shrapnel, photo analysis, determination of which forces were controlling the area at the time of the attack—the régime was found to have attacked more churches despite a greater capacity to target specific facilities, and a lesser chance of accidentally hitting a church while shelling a neighborhood.

 The régime also systematically justified attacks on churches by publicly saying they had become operation centers for opposition forces, Erica Hanichak of Americans for a Free Syria told reporters on Monday.

 The report said that some churches suffered multiple attacks; the Church of the Lady of Peace in Homs was attacked seven times by Syrian government forces, and the Church of Saint Takla in the Damascus Suburbs was attacked four times.

 The armed opposition attacked the Roman Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus four times, as well as churches in Aleppo during fighting with the régime forces there in 2012 and 2013.

 Some churches were attacked several times by multiple entities; the Armenian Church of Independence in Raqqa was attacked three times, twice by ISIS and once by Syrian régime forces. The Church of St. Samaan in the Aleppo suburbs was attacked once by Syrian régime forces, once by the al Nusra Front, and once by factions of the armed opposition.

 Six of the attacks by régime forces were in response to attempts to turn churches into military installations; ISIS did that twice with churches, the report noted.

 In July, Pope Francis sent a letter to Assad, imploring him “to protect the lives of civilians and preserve the main infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals and health facilities” in the province of Idlib where the régime forces had been fighting rebel forces.

 Régime forces had been blamed for the bombing of civilian targets, including markets and hospitals, and of using chemical weapons against civilian populations.

 Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has previously drawn attention to the targeting of civilian buildings by the régime, calling it “highly unlikely” that such attacks were accidental.

 Pope Francis’ July 22 letter said that “what is happening” in Idlib “is inhuman and cannot be accepted.” '

Friday, 6 September 2019

Can a dish and a tale help Syria's internally displaced integrate?

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 ' “Women of Aleppo had been strong, independent and right next to their man — particularly in the Syrian revolution,” said Umm Karamwa as she stuffed zucchini with minced meat and rice.

 “Aleppo women played a vital role in the revolution, alongside men. They worked in nursing and tended to the wounded from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They participated in demonstrations and in civil, relief and educational activities under the banner of the Syrian revolution,” she told 20 women, all of whom are part of a project that aims to integrate internally displaced women into their new surroundings in Atareb, a town in the western Aleppo countryside.

 Born and raised in the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo, Umm Karamwa, a housewife, was forced to move to Atareb in 2016 when the régime forces took over their area, which prompted thousands of pro-opposition civilians to leave their homes for the Aleppo countryside, under control of the FSA. She has been living in Atareb, 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of her city, since 2016.

 Umm Karamwa then knowledgeably spoke, with some nostalgia, to the women about Aleppo’s rich heritage including the Citadel to the covered market and other aspects of Aleppo's archaeological heritage. Some of the women were locals; others were displaced from different governorates.

 All participants tell their stories — often a mix of their personal lives, heritages and beliefs — in “A Dish and A Tale” sessions, which aims to integrate the newcomers with local women. The speaker often starts with an introduction then talks about all the things that interest her, from the role of women in the Syrian revolution to the traditions she grew up with. The displaced women have touching stories to tell on how they felt when they left behind their homes, such as what they could have taken with them and what they left behind. Others listen and ask questions.

 After or during the “tale,” each woman shows others how to make a special dish, which they eat together afterward. Umm Karamwa’s session was the second gathering of “A Dish and a Tale,” and she decided to cook stuffed zucchini (al-mahashi).

 “To talk and cook is a wonderful idea,” she said. “I got to make new friends and learn about different cultures in Syria. While I made al-mahashi, the others helped me to stuff zucchini with rice and meat. I found out we make stuffed zucchini differently from the women of Damascus and Homs. We add a lot of spices, while they just add mint to the stuffing."

 In the first session, held July 20, the speaker had been Umm Mohammad, a 50-year old housewife who lived with her grandchildren. They all came from Homs.

 “I was very happy to be part of this initiative. I had the chance to meet women from different Syrian governorates and we shared our concerns of displacement and the suffering we went through. I told them about our social customs in Homs, the way we make grilled kibbeh [meat patties], which is one of our specialties. They really liked it,” Umm Muhammad said.

 Lina Mustafa, coordinator of the initiative, told how food and conversation have built bridges among the women. “First, women introduce themselves and talk about their hometowns and their work. They also discuss the role of women in the Syrian revolution, their participation in the demonstrations, raising banners and other activities in their areas before they had been forcibly displaced.”

 “During the first session, Umm Mohammad talked about Homs — Syria’s third-largest city and a key battleground. Homs was dubbed “the capital of revolution” in the uprising against Bashar al-Assad. She showed the onset of the demonstrations against a backdrop of a slideshow showing photos and videos during the revolution in the squares of Homs, with a focus on women’s roles in helping the peaceful, wounded protesters. The photos depicted some of the customs and traditions in Homs, the city’s archaeological sites, and the famous dishes and ingredients. The attendees then joined Umm Mohammad in the preparation of grilled kibbeh (meat patties), and then [they all] lunched together,” Mustafa said.

 Muhammad Shakrdy, director of the Atareb Civil Center, said the "Volunteer to Build” team launched the initiative. “This social activity also seeks to help displaced women cope with the bitter reality of being away from their homes and adapt to a new social milieu,” he said.

 “The idea of the initiative came up as displaced Syrians from different governorates flocked into the FSA-controlled areas in northern Syria, particularly in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib. We had to find a way to help women integrate into the hosting communities. We also wanted to challenge any stereotypes held by the locals in Atareb in the western Aleppo countryside vis-a-vis the displaced,” he added.

 “Twenty different women attend every session. They include both local and displaced women. A woman tells the story, customs and history of her hometown with a focus on the role of women in the revolution against the Syrian régime in every gathering. The meeting also includes a Q&A session. At the end, the attendees cook a meal, which would be the specialty of a Syrian town or village. We already held two sessions, one on the city of Aleppo and the other on the city of Homs. In the upcoming sessions, the attendees will talk about Damascus, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa,” Shakrdy said.

 Hanan Orabi, director of the Office for Women and Child Welfare, a division of the Council of Free Aleppo Governorate, said she was also a guest in the initiative. “The idea is wonderful and aims to strengthen ties between locals and displaced women; [it] brings hope into the hearts of families who are still feeling homesick,” she said.

 Another invitee, social activist Asmaa Mohammed, agreed that the combination of food and conversation worked and could be a model for other towns that host displaced people. “This kind of initiative is very important for social integration in the hosting communities. Other towns in the Aleppo countryside should follow suit to help the displaced families feel more welcome in their new communities,” she said.'

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Syrian father who lost twins to poison gas uprooted again

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 'When Abdel Hamid al-Yousef lost his 9-month-old twins in the poison gas attack that hit the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, the world witnessed his heartbreak and grief in the video of him cradling their lifeless bodies in his arms, bidding them farewell in the chaotic aftermath of the attack.

 Determined to continue with his life despite the pain, he has since remarried, and now has a one-year-old daughter who brings much needed joy to what remains of the family. But tragedy keeps chasing the 31-year-old former shopkeeper.

 Many displaced persons like al-Yousef fear that a government win will bring little relief — or sense of closure.

 Al-Yousef recently fled Khan Sheikhoun again, joining tens of thousands fleeing heavy airstrikes and bombardment as government forces swept into the town, on the southern edge of the country's last rebel stronghold in the province of Idlib.

 He now lives among thousands of other internally displaced Syrians in a settlement near the Turkish border, worried he will never be able to go back to the hometown he left behind.

 "I buried the most important thing I have in my life there, my children and my siblings. I used to find some relief by visiting them twice a week at the grave," he said. "I cannot do that anymore."

 Most of all, al-Yousef fears the takeover by Bashar Assad's forces of Khan Sheikhoun means that any leftover evidence from the April 2017 toxic gas attack will now be erased forever.

"The biggest fear now, after r
égime forces and the Russians and allied militiamen took over Khan Sheikhoun is that they will tamper with the evidence with regards to the chemical weapons attack and distort the facts," he said.

 The attack in opposition-held Khan Sheikhoun in the early morning of April 4, 2017 left residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets and overcrowded hospitals. Nearly 90 people were killed in the attack, one of the deadliest in years.

 Days later, the U.S. fired 59 U.S. Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base in central Syria, saying the attack on Khan Sheikhoun was launched from the base. It marked the first western airstrikes on targets of Assad's government since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

 From his tent in the displaced settlement near the Turkish border called "Mokhayyam al-Karamah," Arabic for "Dignity Camp," near the town of Atmeh, al-Yousef recalls that fateful day when he lost his twins, Aya and Ahmed, his wife Dalal and 16 other relatives.

 It is a story he has told dozens of times, about how Khan Sheikhoun residents woke up at half-past six in the morning to the sound of explosions. How people started running out of their homes and onto the street, trying to help each other. How he told his wife to take the twins to safety outside. The people he saw foaming at the mouth and nose.

 He recalls how he ran to his brother's house to find him and his family dead. His other brother and nephew, also dead. His niece who was around 13, also dead. He lost consciousness and woke up four hours later to be told that his twins and wife had died. They were among the 89 people who died from what experts have determined was an attack using sarin, an outlawed nerve toxin.

 In footage filmed by his cousin that was widely circulated later, al-Yousef, 29 years old at the time, is seen seated in the front seat of a van cradling his twins, holding them in each arm. He stroked their hair and choked back tears, mumbling, "Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye."

 Al-Yousef keeps photos and videos of the attack's aftermath on his phone that he flips through from time to time.

 He sits on the floor and plays Lego with his 11-month-old daughter, whom he named Aya, after his first daughter. Her hair is in curly pigtails and she is wearing a sleeveless yellow T-shirt with the words "Love" printed on it and a heart in the middle.

 Al-Yousef said that after spending some time in Turkey for treatment after the gas attack, he then chose to return to Khan Sheikhoun, held by rebels.

 He decided to try and build a new life and a new home. He got married and had Aya. He gradually found some happiness.

 But then government troops began an assault on Idlib and the nonstop bombardment of Khan Sheikhoun returned. A new wave of civilian displacement began. As the bombardment got unbearable and the troops encircled the town, he decided to leave, fleeing with the masses to safer areas near the Turkish border.

 "The final days felt like I was saying goodbye to everything I hold dear to my heart. I had already lost my children and now I've lost my country. My situation has become very, very tragic," he said.

 Al-Yousef wants the bloodshed to end. As a well-known witness and survivor of the chemical weapons attack, he says he gets frequent threats from the government side, but says he'll never stop talking about what happened. He wants accountability.

 "I want to send a message to Western countries to shoulder their responsibility and protect the lives of remaining civilians," he said.'
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Sunday, 1 September 2019

Syria ceasefire just gives régime a breather, say tired Idlib residents

Zouhir al-Shimale:

 'Residents of northern Syria say they have no faith in the temporary reprieve brought by a Russian-led ceasefire in Idlib as they say shelling hasn’t stopped and the memories endure of previous such deals in other areas subjected to government offensives.

 Many of the nearly 3 million civilians sheltering in Syria’s last rebel-held area of Syria were displaced from elsewhere in the country following previous government offensives.

 Those who lived through such fighting say that similar ceasefire deals made little difference on the ground as shelling continued and government forces used the brief pause to regroup and renew the offensive days later.

 “I do not know what to say,” said Sara Mawlawe, 29, a teacher in the Idlib town of Saraqib southeast of Idlib city. She was displaced from Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, after the régime onslaught there in March 2018.

 “The Russian-Syrian régimes are playing with the international community and us like [we’re] dull. Attacking when they want to, ceasing fire to rest and reload their weapons whenever they want,” she said.

 Ms Mawlawe said Russian-backed forces would not stop until they recaptured the areas they wanted, regardless of the international community.

 “This truce is a setup scheme to orchestrate more attacks against civilians,” she said. “Since I came from Eastern Ghouta last year, the ceasefire and battles are almost identical.”

 She pointed to identical attacks against hospitals, infrastructure, civil defence centres and displacements camps.

 “Not only the attacks and ceasefires are the same since Eastern Ghouta or Aleppo, the world’s leaders and media coverage have also been the same,” she said.

 “Condemnation and draft resolutions against the Syrian régime always vetoed by Russia. Can anyone give me one reason to be optimistic or think this one will end our agony?”

 She added that while the area of Idlib where she is now sheltering was relatively peaceful on Sunday, they could hear warplanes overhead and explosions in the distance.

 “We do not know if the truce is still on track or it has been cancelled."

 On Saturday, the Syria and Russia declared the cessation of hostilities – the second since August 1 – but it was swiftly violated the Syrian military who announced on government media that they were starting attacks against “terrorists” in north Syria.

 Ms Mawlawe works with a relief organisation facilitating aid to internally displaced people in the region. She is a volunteer cook and distributes essential items with the local council of Saraqib.

 “Even though the truce will not last, the international organization ought to stand up for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who lost everything," she said. “Some families have not eaten a meal for more than three days, or are without shelter. The humanitarian crisis is at critical levels and needs the intervention of international organizations”.

 Sami Souqe, 33, is a carpenter but lost his home in the bombing of Aleppo three years ago. He has been living with his family of three children in the outskirt of Marat Al Noman, south of Idlib city.

 His house has been destroyed and his nine-year-old son, Khaled, is still in intensive care after suffering critical wounds to his back.

 His other two children and wife were displaced again now sleep under the open sky, homeless and without assistance while he waits near Turkish border hospital in Bab Al Hawa to hear news of Khaled’s condition.

 “We are defenceless and harmless, why are the same attacks and truces happening over and over,” he asked. “And there’s no response or movement whatsoever by the West to end the ongoing atrocities.”

 He too didn’t believe the ceasefire was an attempt to ease the humanitarian situation or stop the clashes.

 “The declared halt only serve the régime, to reorganize their fighters and move more militants and ammunitions towards Idlib’s frontline to destroy and recapture more towns. It has been happening for years,” he said.

 “In 2016 we had the same scenario when dozens of ceasefires were announced and broken again and again by the régime, fooling rebel forces and the international community with the fake willingness to [hold] peace negotiations.”

 Mr Sami took part in a protest on Friday at the Syrian border with Turkey, calling for Ankara to open the closed crossing to allow civilians to flee the grinding bloodshed of the Idlib campaign.

 "We are exhausted and need this war to come to an end, we pray for it every day to come true," he said.'

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