561,000 Syrians return to Idlib since cease-fire

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ISTANBUL

Around 561,746 displaced Syrians have returned to their homes in Idlib and Aleppo since Turkey and Russia agreed on a cease-fire on March 5, 2020, a local source told Anadolu Agency.

“The suspension of military operations by the regime and its allied militias following the cease-fire agreement has allowed civilians to return to their homes,” Muhammad Hallaj, director of Syria’s Response Coordination Group, told Anadolu Agency.

Millions of civilians fled their homes in the two provinces in northern Syria as a result of the Syrian regime’s indiscriminate bombing and took refuge in areas close to the Turkish border.

Hallaj said most of those who returned are in need of humanitarian aid and are also at risk of undetonated bombs fired by the Syrian regime forces in the past.

In May 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran announced that they had reached an agreement to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib, as part of the Astana meetings related to the Syrian crisis.

However, it was only after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on March 5, 2020, to a new truce in Idlib to end hostilities and attacks on civilians that effective de-escalation took place, with the exception of sporadic shelling by regime forces.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million remain displaced, according to UN estimates.

Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million refugees — more than any country in the world.

*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar

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