We are rescue workers, medics and humanitarians struggling right now to save our people from relentless Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes. In eight years, we have never witnessed such ferocious attacks on Idlib. We are devastated that the world has turned its back on us.
We fear that the full-scale military assault we have been dreading has begun. In the past two weeks alone, 169 civilians have been killed, 30 of them children. 16 hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed with patients still being treated inside. On Sunday, three hospitals were destroyed in the space of just three hours. Kafranbel Surgical Hospital alone was bombed four times with only three to five minutes between each airstrike. Injured and sick, our patients had to run for their lives, some of them with their IVs still attached.
Already, one White Helmet volunteer has died in a double-tap strike when an airplane bombed a house and then circled back to bomb the people that had gathered to help. Separately, one of the White Helmets’ main warehouses was targeted and dozens of ambulances as well excavation vehicles used to lift people out of the rubble were destroyed. We feel responsible for the communities we serve and increasingly helpless with every blow to our capacity to save lives.
Time and time again we’ve witnessed attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia on hospitals and civil defence centres ahead of major escalations. We’ve seen it in Aleppo, East Ghouta, Daraa, and elsewhere. After those offensives, residents were forcibly displaced to Idlib — this time the people of Idlib have nowhere left to flee. With the Turkish borders closed to them, people are sleeping in the open air, without shelter.
The areas we are operating in are covered by a Russian and Turkish demilitarisation agreement that is supposed to protect civilians. But civilians are not being protected, they are being hunted. The whole time we are pulling survivors from the rubble, they are screaming the names of their children or parents or siblings and asking us if they are alive. In ambulances and in hospitals, we have the terrible job of informing them that their loved ones are dead. Many end up wishing they hadn’t made it. We are physically and emotionally exhausted and worry that the worst is yet to come.
To humans everywhere, we ask you to bear witness and spread the word about what’s happening in Idlib. Share our letter and send it to your politicians and journalists you might know.
To the guarantors of the demilitarisation agreement and members of the UN Security Council, we hold you accountable for every civilian life lost and demand you uphold your responsibility to stop the bombs.
To donor governments, we ask you to immediately allocate funding to allow the organisations on the ground to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
Medics, humanitarians and White Helmets in northwest Syria