U.N. official calls Syrian refugee crisis "cruel beyond belief"

U.N. official calls Syrian refugee crisis "cruel beyond belief"

Last Updated Feb 19, 2020 4:05 PM EST

Istanbul — The United Nations' human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, on Tuesday called the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria "cruel beyond belief." Since December, 900,000 civilians have been forced to flee Syrian and Russian bombs in the northwest. Most are women and children.

This is a war that never ends. Nine years of terror, and in Idlib, they still live powerlessly and impotently as their own government bombs them out of their homes.

There are more than three million people crammed into Syria's last major rebel stronghold.

Syria refugees
Internally displaced people ride on a pickup truck with their belongings in Afrin, Syria, on February 18, 2020. Reuters

The regime's latest offensive, which is backed by its ally Russia, has forced hundreds of thousands of them to flee for their lives and left people homeless in the middle of a bitter winter.

"I'm begging for a place to shelter my kids," a father said. "The bombs didn't kill them, and I don't want them to die of the cold."

The children of Idlib have grown up in a time of bloodshed and don't know what it means to feel safe.

One video apparently shows a father trying to protect his 3-year-old daughter from the reality of war. She thinks the bombs and mortars are part of a game.

Syria refugees
Displaced Syrian women and children, who fled from southern Idlib, gather around a fire in Afrin, Syria, on February 6, 2020. Reuters

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a man's statement to a local activist. This story has been updated.