Aleppo Evacuees Are Fleeing to Idlib. Now Idlib Is a Target
Syria's Assad expected to go after last rebel stronghold
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2016 11:11 AM CST
This frame grab from video shows damaged buildings in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – The evacuation of civilians and anti-government fighters from eastern Aleppo ran into yet another snag Friday, though negotiations were underway to get it back on track, reports Reuters. If it resumes, thousands of people are expected to head west and end up in the Syrian province of Idlib near the Turkish border. The problem? The same thing that happened to Aleppo might happen to Idlib next. The region is the last anti-government stronghold, and now that President Bashar al-Assad has essentially reclaimed Aleppo, he is expected to continue his push to oust opposition forces. In fact, Idlib already has been hit with regular government airstrikes in recent weeks, reports CNN. “I don’t know what will happen in Idlib, but if there is no cease-fire or political accord then it will become the next Aleppo,” says the UN envoy for Syria, per the New York Times.

Given its location, Idlib has strategic importance to both Assad (giving him control of the "Damascus to Aleppo highway") and to Turkey, which opposes his regime, notes the International Business Times. An analysis at Australia's ABC News says the fate of those in Idlib may indeed hinge on Turkey, though it adds that Ankara "clearly gave up on Aleppo in the face of Russian involvement." Beyond the geopolitics, the Guardian reports that civilians fleeing the fighting are in rough shape, and they're headed to areas ill-prepared to handle large influxes of people. "It's winter, it's freezing, these are tens of thousands of people coming from besieged areas who will need a lot of follow-up treatment because of the rudimentary wartime medical assistance,” says an official with the Syrian American Medical Society, an NGO.

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