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Rebel-controlled Syrian refugees in Idlib are trapped in Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Of the millions of Syrians whose government has blown up towns, destroyed houses and killed their loved ones, 150 families squatted in the football field in the northwestern city of Idlib, hiding in stands or crumbling tents underground Rocky courtyard.

Jobs are scarce, and whenever the jets buzz, terror will make them feel terrified: new air strikes may occur at any time. But they are worried that the government will be retaliated, preventing them from returning to their homes. More than 1,300 similar refugee camps are dotted with the last fortresses controlled by the Syrian rebels, swallowing farmland, stretching along irrigation canals, and filling a lot of land next to apartment buildings in which refugee families squat in windowless buildings. In the damaged unit.

Okba al-Rahoum, the head of the football camp, said: “People will stay in these places in the face of all disasters and then rule over Bashar al-Assad. To live.”

In a rare visit to Idlib province, there were examples of shocked and impoverished people who were trapped in a dark and often violent fringe zone. They are trapped in the separation wall to prevent them from fleeing the nearby border with Turkey and between hostile governments that may launch an offensive at any time. They strive to ensure basic needs in territories controlled by militant groups linked to Al Qaeda.

In the ten years since the outbreak of the Syrian War, President Bashar al-Assad’s army has smashed the communities that rebelled against him, and thousands of people have fled turbulent new lives-in neighboring countries, Europe and large areas of Syria where Mr. Assad is absent, including the northwest area occupied by the rebels.

The Syrian leader made it clear that these people do not meet his vision of victory, and that as long as he continues to govern, few will return. This makes the fate of the displaced people one of the trickiest parts of the unfinished business of the war.

“The question is: what is the future of these people?” said Mark Kutz, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations Syrian Region. “They can’t live forever on the muddy land under the olive trees by the roadside.”

Throughout the war, the northwest region controlled by the rebels became the last destination of the Syrians, with nowhere to go. After the government conquered their town, they were deported here. They came by car and the truck was full of blankets, mattresses and children. Some people arrive on foot and have almost no possessions except the clothes they wear.

Last year, with the support of Russia and Iran, the Syrian government launched an offensive, pushing nearly one million people into the area.

Of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, about 2.7 million are the last of the two territories occupied by the rebel movement that once controlled most of Syria and have fled from other parts of the country. The influx has turned an idyllic agricultural village into a dense group of temporary settlements, infrastructure is strained, and displaced families have packed every available space.

After fighting to occupy his hometown, former police officer Akram Saeed fled to the Syrian village of Qah near the Turkish border in 2014 and settled on a piece of land overlooking the olive grove in the valley below. Since then, he has been watching his compatriots pouring into the valley, where the olive trees gave way to a dense tent camp.

Said said: “Last year, the whole Syria was here.” “Only God knows what will happen in the future.”

Humanitarian organizations working to curb hunger and infectious diseases, including Covid-19, are striving to obtain sufficient assistance to the region. If Russia, Mr. Assad’s closest international ally, prevents a UN resolution from renewing the contract this summer to keep a border with the northwestern border open for international assistance, the effort may become more difficult.

The leading role of the armed rebel organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or HTS has further exacerbated the international confusion about helping Idlib

The organization evolved from the jihadist organization Nusra Front, which declared its loyalty to Al Qaeda at the beginning of the war and is known for using suicide bombers on government and civilian targets.

Turkey, the United States and the United Nations regard HTS as a terrorist organization, although its leaders openly distanced themselves from Al Qaeda in 2016 and have since downplayed the roots of jihadists. These efforts are evident around Idlib, and although residents often refer to it carefully as a “group that controls the area,” there are no flags, emblems and graffiti announcing the group’s existence.

Unlike ISIS, ISIS has fought with rebels and governments to control the vast territory across the borders of Syria and Iraq. HTS did not promote the immediate establishment of an ISIS, nor did it send moral police to strictly enforce social regulations.

While patrolling the organization’s front-line positions, a military spokesperson walked by nom de guerre Abu Khalid al-Shami and led the reporter to a dirt staircase hidden in a bunker, leading to a long underground tunnel. To the underground es ditch and manned positions were fired by soldiers.

He said: “This is the regime, the Russians are in this way, and the Iranian militias are there.” He pointed to the green field to the place where the gang’s enemies were dug.

When asked how the organization differed from its predecessor, Al-Qaida, he regarded it as part of a broader rebel movement aimed at overthrowing Mr. Assad.

In order to manage the area, HTS assisted in the establishment of the Syrian relief government. The head of the government, Ali Koda, said in an interview that the Syrian relief government has more than 5,000 employees and 10 ministries, including justice, education, and agriculture.

It has not received international recognition and is working hard to meet the vast majority of the needs of the region.

Critics view the government as a facade for civilians, allowing prohibited groups to interact with foreign organizations. They accused it and HTS of detaining critics and shutting down activities that conflict with their strict Islamic views.

Last month, Rania Kisar, the Syrian-American director of the educational organization SHINE, urged a group of women to reject polygamous marriages at an event in Idlib, which is permitted under Islamic law.

Ms. Kisar said that the next day, the gunman closed SHINE’s office and threatened to detain its manager.

Government spokesperson Melhem al-Ahmad confirmed After thinking that Ms. Kisar’s words “insulted public sentiment and morals,” it closed the office “until further notice.”

A spokesperson for HTS stated that aid and media organizations can work freely within a “revolutionary framework” that respects norms and does not violate permitted limits.

Last year, the advancement of government forces increased the pressure on Idlib’s already tight service.

At a maternity hospital in Idlib, Dr. Ikram Habosh recalled three or four babies being delivered every day before the war. Now, with too many doctors fleeing and few facilities, she often supervises delivery 15 times a day.

Hospitals are overcrowded and lack the means to handle difficult cases.

She said: “Sometimes we give birth to babies prematurely, but we don’t have a place to put them. When we can transfer them to Turkey, the baby is dead.”

Since last year, the ceasefire between Russia and Turkey has stopped all-out fighting in Idlib, but there were three attacks in one day last month. The shells hit the refugee camp; the airstrike ignited a gas station on the Turkish border; According to the Syrian American Medical Association, which supports the facility, three shells hit a rural hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including An orphan who has been vaccinated.

While the displaced in the area struggled to survive, others tried to provide simple pleasures.

In Idlib, Disneyland restaurants entice visitors to dine, eat salads and grilled meats, and forget about the troubles caused by video games, bumper cars, hockey and animal plush toys.

When the government shelled nearby, the storage room in the basement doubled as a shelter, and the terrace was surrounded by plastic sheeting instead of glass, so if there was an explosion nearby, it would not harm diners.

He said that the manager Ahmed Abu Kheir was unemployed at a tourist hotel, which was closed after the war broke out, so he opened a smaller place, which was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it when the government occupied the area last year, and he fled to Idlib.

Like all the displaced in Idlib, he is eager to take his family home, but he is happy to work in a place that spreads joy.

He said: “We firmly believe that normal life must continue.” “We want to live.”

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