Unrelenting regime air strikes against villages in the Hama and Idlib countrysides have forced yet another crisis of internally displaced Syrians.
“Through its intensive bombing campaign, the regime is trying to secure its supply and defense lines in Hama province,” Ibrahim Shamali, a correspondent with the Umayya Media Center, tells Ammar Hamou.
Q: Activists are saying regime air strikes are forcing civilians in the villages of Sahel al-Ghab to abandon their homes. Can you tell us more about this?
Civilians have almost completely evacuated about 30 villages in Sahel al-Ghab in the northern Hama countryside, and about 20 villages in Jabal a-Zawiya, in the southern Idlib countryside. Some are completely empty.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDP) has risen to some 200,000 people, and this is a verified number, not an estimate, based on data collected by the Hama Health Directorate from local health centers and hospitals.
Q: There are also Alawite villages in Sahel al-Ghab. Are civilians evacuating them as well?
The IDP crisis is limited to Sunni villages. Regime warplanes struck the villages of Sahel al-Ghab about 70 times alone, while the village of Kafar Aweed, in the southern Idlib countryside, got hit about 20 times. Most IDPs head north for the border with Turkey, or the safer parts of the Idlib countryside.
Q: What’s the Idlib Victory Army doing to stop the regime’s bombardment?
Nobody can stop the regime’s air raids. But preventative steps we can take include posting reconnaissance units near regime airbases to monitor the takeoff and direction of regime war planes. These units then send alert and evacuation notices to the residents of villages along the flight paths of bomb-laden aircraft.
Q: Does the regime still use Hama military airport for area bombing runs?
Indeed it does, in addition to As-Seen airbase in the northern Damascus countryside and Hameem airbase in the eastern Latakia countryside. One rebel brigade recently targeted Hama airbase with a Grad rocket volley, but that simply wasn’t enough to stop the bombings. We need a more intensive rocket barrage to really hamper takeoffs at Hama airbase.