Cease-fire collapse in northwest Syria threatens millions: UN envoy

Pedersen speaks to journalists in Damascus, July 9, 2019. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

The humanitarian adviser to U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen Thursday regretted the collapse of a ceasefire in the northwest, saying that fresh violence threatens the lives of millions after more than 500 civilians were killed since late April.

Najat Rochdi, senior humanitarian adviser to Pedersen, noted the agreement between the United States and Turkey deal announced on Wednesday to set up "safe zone" in northeast Syria.

"Humanitarian actors are increasingly concerned by statements suggesting a possible military intervention, which would have severe humanitarian consequences in an area that has already witnessed years of military activity, displacement, droughts and floods," she said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief for Syria, Panos Moumtzis commented on the situation in Syria's Idlib province. "These people don't know where to go," he said, stressing that there is no other opposition stronghold where people can flee if Idlib confronts a full assault by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"A total panic has resumed again," added Moumtzis. "It is like playing with fire at the moment and we worry about it coming out of control."

Also speaking Thursday, British foreign minister Dominic Raab criticised Syria's President, Bashar al-Assad, for resuming military operations in the country's northwest, describing the situation there as "appalling."

"Appalled by situation in Idlib and how Assad backed by Russia revoked a 'conditional' ceasefire just days after announcing it - a repeated pattern of behaviour," Raab said on Twitter.

"Attacks on civilian targets are a violation of international humanitarian law - this must stop."