Tens of thousands flee new Syria offensives

BEIRUT: Tens of thousands have fled new regime offensives in Syria, the UN said Tuesday, as Russian air strikes were reported to have killed 370 people so far, around one third of them civilians.


With the Russian bombing campaign now in its fourth week, Moscow and Washington announced they had agreed measures to ensure air safety over Syria, where a US-led coalition is also carrying out strikes.

The exodus was focused south of second city Aleppo, one of five areas where loyalist forces have launched offensives since Russia began its air war on September 30.

“Around 35,000 people are reported to have been displaced from the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo city, following government offensives,” said Vanessa Huguenin, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

She said many “urgently need food and basic household and shelter items” as the weather gets colder.

Syria´s war has killed more than 250,000 people and forced millions from their homes since March 2011, recently sparking a mass migration of refugees that has raised tensions in Europe.

To reduce the risk of a confrontation between Russian warplanes and others from a US-led coalition bombing Syria, Moscow and Washington announced an understanding on safety measures.

“There´s a series of protocols in place that effectively are intended to avoid any sort of risk of a mid-air incident between our air crews and Russian air crews,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

In Moscow, a deputy defence minister, Anatoly Antonov, said “the memorandum contains a number of rules and restrictions aimed at preventing incidents”.