The Toll of Russian Air Strikes on Kafr Nboudha
By Natasha Hall, MENA Program Officer
Since their start at the end of September 2015, Russian air strikes have displaced over a quarter million Syrians. According to Amnesty International, civilian harm attributable to Russia is on the rise. “We ran for our lives. We didn’t get to take anything with us. No blankets, nothing,” said Fatima, who fled Kafr Nboudha in Hama governorate to a makeshift camp called Jabal Harem on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. With borders more tightly sealed than ever before, temperatures dipping to 23°F (-5°C), and air strikes continuing, newly displaced Syrians have nowhere to go. As one UN official told me, “Everyday there is a new displacement… new arrivals… new needs.”
Kafr Nboudha is a town that experienced relative calm until three months ago when squadrons of Russian jet fighters began bombarding it. “It seems like the Russians are finishing the job that the [Syrian] regime started in 2011,” said Abu Qusai, a former resident. Prior to this bombardment, Kafr Nboudha—nestled next to a regime held Allawi village—had negotiated a truce with the government in the summer of 2014. As a result of the extended ceasefire, those displaced by fighting in other areas moved there for safety. When the Russian strikes began, residents I interviewed stated that well over half the population of Kafr Nboudeh were displaced persons from other areas of Syria.
Russian air strikes on opposition controlled cities such as Kafr Nboudha are displacing Syrians that thought they were safe, and reactivating frontlines in Hama, Latakia, Aleppo, and Deraa. Makeshift IDP camps in Syria are struggling to survive with the new influx. Jabel Harem is an IDP camp in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey where Syrians have been fleeing. It is overcrowded, hosting two to three families per tent across a muddy olive orchard and does not have enough toilets, water, or bread. Anas, a farmer turned IDP camp director, told me that conditions are hard and people are losing hope. Armed groups such as the Nusra Front have also interfered with the camp’s organization, demanding certain perks from the camp managers for their own families. As regime forces advance north and air strikes occur closer to the Syrian-Turkish border, residents fear that the relative security they found in the camp will not last.
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Natasha Hall is the Middle East North Africa program officer for Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC). A full report of CIVIC’s findings on Syrian civilian protection strategies will be released in early 2016. Follow CIVIC on Facebook and on Twitter at @CivCenter.