UN worried for Syrians stranded by Islamic State advance

Some 8,000 Syrians trapped by fighting north of Aleppo, where Islamic State has advanced against rebels

A boy carries bread as he makes his way through rubble following an air strike in the rebel-held area of Aleppo’s al-Sukari district. Photograph: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail

A boy carries bread as he makes his way through rubble following an air strike in the rebel-held area of Aleppo’s al-Sukari district. Photograph: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail

 

The United Nations said yesterday it was worried about 8,000 Syrians trapped by fighting north of Aleppo, where Islamic State has advanced against rebels, and that both Kurdish and rebel authorities had hindered people fleeing the area.

The fighting has displaced thousands more Syrians near the Turkish frontier, where more than 160,000 people are already sheltering, most of whom fled fighting earlier this year, the UN says.

“An unknown number of people are also unable to flee due to fighting and the closure of the main road leading north towards the town of Azaz in northwestern Syria, ” said a joint statement from the Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Syria and the Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Syria Crisis.

Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as Isis, advanced in recent days into the opposition-held town of Marea. The Turkish-backed rebels who are battling Isis north of Aleppo have also been involved in hostilities with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which controls wide areas of territory to the west of Marea.

In a separate report on the situation, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said civilians fleeing the Isis advance had been prevented by Syrian Kurdish authorities from entering areas under their control in response to rebel shelling of a Kurdish-held area of Aleppo.

It said about 2,000 people had managed to evacuate Marea and nearby Sheikh Issa, which were encircled by Islamic State on May 27th.

“However, an estimated 7,000 civilians still remain inside and unable to leave due to restrictions imposed by Kurdish authorities,” it added. The OCHA said this was a Kurdish response to rebel shelling of Aleppo’s Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsoud area.

Fears of infiltration

The court that issued the order cited fears of infiltration by covert Islamic State militants posing as internally displaced people (IDPs), after 8,000 IDPs arrived in Azaz.

“Humanitarian agencies have continued to suspend operations and evacuate staff from towns in close proximity to hostilities,” the OCHA report said. – (Reuters)