Deteriorating situation in SW Syria arouses deep concern at UN

Deteriorating situation in SW Syria arouses deep concern at UN

UNITED NATIONS, (Rahnuma) — The United Nations on Friday continued to express its “deep concern” about the safety and protection of civilians caught in military operations in southwest Syria.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that at least 15 Syrians have died in makeshift camps near the Jordanian border because of “scorpion bites, dehydration and diseases transmitted through contaminated water.”

The UN said that 325,000 people in the Daraa region have been displaced by the fighting. Most are living in makeshift campsites near the Jordanian and Israeli borders without adequate shelter, food or water.

The UN has shown “great concern” over the latest developments in war-torn Syria.

UN CHIEF CALLS FOR END OF HOSTILITIES

The UN Security Council on Thursday failed to agree on any solution to the situation in southwest Syria during emergency closed-door consultations, after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement to express his concern.

The UN chief once again appealed for an “immediate suspension of the hostilities” and the resumption of negotiations.

He called on all parties to take all necessary measures to “safeguard civilian lives, allow freedom of movement, and protect civilian infrastructure,” including medical and educational facilities, at all times, in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

An estimated 750,000 lives “are in danger,” the UN chief said in a statement issued Thursday by his spokesman.

On June 30, the secretary-general expressed “deep alarm” over increased hostilities in southwest Syria and its “devastating” toll on civilians.

The UN chief called on all stakeholders to “immediately stop attacks directed against medical and educational facilities and put in place security conditions for UN cross-border humanitarian deliveries to resume without further delay.”

On June 22, Guterres urged an immediate end to the military escalation in southwest Syria and a return to ceasefire arrangements agreed by Russia, the United States and Jordan.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

A UN spokesman said Friday that intense air and ground-based strikes on Daraa City and eastern and western rural areas on Thursday resulted in the reported death of 18 people.

The immediate needs of displaced Syrians, many of whom are children, include shelter, water, food, medical care and sanitation. The living conditions of internally displaced persons along border areas “are extremely difficult,” as they lack adequate shelter, sanitation facilities, basic assistance and access to services, said the spokesman.

Up to 70 percent of those in western parts of Quneitra are reported to be without shelter, exposed to dusty desert winds and high temperatures.

In coordination with the government of Jordan, the United Nations has provided lifesaving assistance including food, water, soap, sanitary items, shelter, and medical supplies and equipment for the tens of thousands of Syrians near the Jordanian border.

The head of the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, on Thursday appealed to Jordan to open its border with southwest Syria to help protect the civilians who are “caught in the crossfire.”

The people “are living in dire and insecure conditions,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement.

There are large numbers of women and children among the displaced, as well as elderly, injured and sick people and “I am especially concerned about them,” he said, adding that among the displaced are local humanitarian workers who have “selflessly served the civilian population throughout the duration of the conflict.”

Grandi underscored the immediate priority of finding a political solution to the conflict to spare civilians further suffering.

Fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and opposition militia, has been intensifying for weeks across Daraa Governorate, as well as the Golan Heights border area with Israel.

Grandi said that while the UN and partners are doing what they can to deliver life-saving aid to the people of southwest Syria, both from within the country and across the Jordanian border, “the security situation is hindering efforts to reach many people in dire need.”

“I call on all parties to redouble efforts to cease hostilities, to allow humanitarian actors to deliver life-saving assistance, shelter and evacuate the wounded,” Grandi said.

CALL OF SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS

Several members of the UN Security Council on Thursday called for humanitarian access to southwest Syria as well.

Olof Skoog, Swedish ambassador to the UN, called on parties concerned to “enable cross-border convoys from Jordan and urgently step up the protection for civilians” ahead of an emergency meeting called by Kuwait and Sweden, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.

Kuwait and Sweden meanwhile called for an end to bombing, the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid, said Annika Soder, a Swedish foreign ministry official.

“It is important that the cross-border humanitarian assistance from Jordan is able to reach the refugees,” said Dutch UN ambassador Karel Van Oosterom.

French UN ambassador Francois Delattre said that the deliberate shelling of civilian targets was a “clear violation of the agreement of the de-escalation zone.”

“We need all parties to respect their obligations. All of this is ruining the current efforts for a dialogue,” he added.

Syria launched a fresh offensive against rebels in the country’s south on June 19 and now has its sights set on southwestern Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

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