Syrians displaced from the city of Deir ez Zor gather on the outskirts of Raqa on October 2, 2017. US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting against the ISIS group in both Raqqa and Deir ez Zor: Photo AFP/ Bulent Kilic
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed regarding reports of increased military operations across Syria causing a high number of civilian casualties in recent weeks.
“For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties,” said the head of ICRC's delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser in a report released on Thursday. “My colleagues report harrowing stories, like a family of 13 who fled Deir Ezzor only to lose ten of its members to airstrikes and explosive devices along the way.”
The Red Cross reports that these are the worst levels of violence the war-torn nation has seen since the battle for Aleppo in 2016. Not only have military operations increased in western rural Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor but also in many of the de-escalation zones such as Idlib, rural Hama and eastern Ghouta.
“While recent months had provided some reasons to be hopeful, the return to violence is once again bringing intolerable levels of suffering to wide areas of the country, while at the same time decreasing access for humanitarian agencies,” added Gasser.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor reported that there have been at least 185 casualties, including 45 children, 46 women and at least 8 Iraqi refugees between September 29 and October 4 as a result of over 1,220 airstrikes coming from what is believed to be Russian warplanes as well as the Syrian regime’s warplanes and helicopters in the Deir ez-Zor region alone.
The Syrian regime backed by Russia, affiliated militias and Iran have been in a so-called race with the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Deir ez-Zor, which has been described as "ISIS's last stand" by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The Red Cross also reported as many as ten hospitals have been damaged due to the airstrikes cutting thousands of people off from access to basic healthcare needs.
Humanitarian organizations in camps near Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor are struggling to provide aid and assistance to over 1,000 women, children and men who are arriving daily as they flee military operations in the region.
“Military operations must not disregard the fate of civilians and of the vital infrastructure on which their survival depends,” said ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, Robert Mardini.
“Winning by any means is not only unlawful, but also unacceptable when it comes at such human cost. We call once again on all those fighting in Syria to show restraint, and to abide by the basic tenets of International humanitarian law.”
Deir ez-Zor city which is located at the top of the Middle Euphrates River Valley is geographically strategic, as it stretches to the Al Bukamal and Al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq.