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Thousands flee as Syria violence intensifies

The Syrian government’s fresh assault on the last rebel stronghold in the country has sparked another mass movement of people, with tens of thousands fleeing the fighting. 

Turkish troops were spotted early on Tuesday morning moving into positions along the Syrian border as fears mounted about an humanitarian catastrophe.

Turkish politicians have been warning about the possibility of a “mass migration” for days as violence intensifies across their southeastern border.

Bashar al Assad’s fighters have moved into the south of Idlib Province on a ground offensive for the first time in nearly three years, and this – coupled with more airstrikes – has prompted another wave of people to flee further into the overly crowded Idlib City and beyond.

The Syrian Government's fresh assault on the last rebel stronghold in the country causes thousands to flee
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Flimsy tents are pitched in soggy mud on rocky hillsides

We found hundreds of people camped out in the Idlib Province countryside near the Turkish border, with many having already relocated multiple times to escape the violence.

“We were told it would be safe in Idlib Province,” one old man shouted at us. ”But nowhere is safe in Syria anymore.”

Another family of 11 told us their house in Marat al Numan had been bombed and they had fled first inside Idlib City and then towards the Turkish border to escape the latest bombardment.

Many of the families fled with little more than the clothes or belongings they could carry and after several moves have exhausted all their savings and supplies.

Hasna al Daher was left with three young children, the youngest only five months old, when her husband was killed in an airstrike.

She and her young family, including her father-in-law who is blind, have been travelling from place to place ever since.

The Syrian Government's fresh assault on the last rebel stronghold in the country causes thousands to flee
Image:
Turkish troops were spotted moving into positions along the Syrian border

“I just want to go home,” she told me.

“I don’t care that the house is destroyed. If the bombings would stop, I would just go back and try to rebuild.”

The families we saw were camped in miserable conditions, with flimsy tents pitched in soggy mud on rocky hillsides.

The Turkish Red Crescent has been establishing two new camps on the Syrian side near the Bab al Hawa Border gate crossing to house the thousands already gathering.

Idlib was designated a de-escalation zone by Turkey, Russia and Iran as a way of stemming the violence ahead of national dialogue talks planned for later this month and to be hosted in Sochi.

The Syrian Government's fresh assault on the last rebel stronghold in the country causes thousands to flee
Image:
Hundreds of people camp out in the Idlib Province

But those talks now look under threat if the fighting persists.

The Assad regime has had a string of military successes recently after constant support from Russia and Iran, and the Government may be attempting to strengthen its position ahead of the planned peace talks.

The tide appeared to be turning against Mr Assad in 2015 when rebels committed to ousting him as leader first took control of Idlib.

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