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KHAN SHAYKHUN: Vio­­lence in northwest Syria has displaced more than 30,000 people this month alone, the United Nations said on Monday, warning that a looming assault could create the century’s “worst humanitarian catastrophe”.

Idlib province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria’s beleaguered rebels, worn down by a succession of government victories in recent months.

President Bashar al-Assad has now set his sig­hts on Idlib, and his forces have stepped up bombardment of the densely populated province since the beginning of the month.

That has prompted an estimated 30,452 people to be displaced within Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama province between Sept 1 and 9, the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said on Monday.

“We’re deeply concer­ned about this recent escalation of violence, which has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 in the area. That’s something we’re monitoring very closely,” said OCHA spokesman David Swanson.

On Monday, its humanitarian chief made an urgent appeal. “There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don’t turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life in the 21st century,” Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018