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I went to #Idlib to cover the humanitarian catastrophe and #Turkey's recent offensive against the Assad regime.

Here are some impressions. (THREAD 1/17)
2/17: First thing you notice: wherever you go, there are children. They make up an estimated 60% of the more than 1 million displaced people in #Idlib and live without clean water, sufficient food, shelter or education.
3/17: Locals live in the cities, IDPs in the camps. But many can hardly be called 'camps'. People just rent a plot of land and construct their own tents. In this camp for new arrivals in Sarmadā, there are no facilities. Just mud, putrid water and a heavy stench. #Idlib
4/17: In a nearby hospital in Bab al-Hawa, there aren't just wounded fighters, but also civilians hit by airstrikes and famished children. Staff told me one child had frozen to death because of the winter conditions three weeks ago. #Idlib
5/17: This is Doctor Mohammad Abrash, a hero of our time. His calm voice gives some hope to the hopeless. He works non-stop in different hospitals across #Idlib, putting his own life at risk. "In the past year, 67 of our medical centres have been bombed by the regime."
6/17: Abrash: "The regime targets houses, markets, hospitals and schools. It's a strategy. They deliberately displace people in order to take over areas more easily." #Idlib
7/17: Two of Abrash' colleagues died of heart failure because of the stress. One of them had previously survived an air strike on a hospital he was working in. #Idlib
8/17 There is an acute lack of medicine in #Idlib. Many patients undergo surgery without proper anaesthetics. Some of the worst cases are transferred to #Turkey, Abrash told me, but they are sent back to Syria when they recover.
9/17: Abrash and the other hospital staff have not received any salary in 6 months. A Saudi donor failed to pay up, Western donors are hard to find. #Idlib
10/17: Just a note: especially Western donors are wary of HTS control in #Idlib. Yet in the areas I visited, this control was hardly noticeable. Daily life is determined not by the ideology of several thousand extremists, but by the will to survive of millions of civilians.
11/17: #Turkey has the most visible humanitarian presence in #Idlib. Many logo's of Turkish NGOS. Kids wearing bracelets with a Turkish and Syrian revolutionary flag. "If you were to hold a referendum here", a man in Atme camp told me, "all the people would support Erdogan."
12/17: Note: this does not signify blind or total support for Turkey. Several months ago, people in #Idlib told me they loathed Ankara for keeping the border closed, shooting those trying to cross and not taking military action against Assad. But that last point has now changed.
13/17: For the moment, civilians in northern #Idlib are definitely in a safer place because of the Turkish offensive against Assad. The regime has suffered heavy losses and its capacity to launch air strikes on civilian areas has been reduced.
14/17: "After 9 years of watching the world do nothing, we finally feel protected by a foreign power", an NGO worker told me. "When I see these images of Turkish F-16 downing regime warplanes, I feel happy inside. Because I know these warplanes could have killed us." #Idlib
15/17: This elderly man in Atme camp demanded a stronger NATO response against the regime. But for now, he said, Ankara is his only hope.

"If #Turkey doesn't protect us, no one will."
16/17: If there's one message the people in #Idlib had, it is that the world needs to act, and now. People fleeing barrel bombs don't want words of 'grave concern'. They want both humanitarian and military action to stop this catastrophe.
17/17: Doctor Abrash has the final word:

"We have to live like you. You are living in peace. You have your rights, your vote, your hospital, everything. The regime is bombing us because we demanded these rights. But we are human beings, we need to have the same as you." #Idlib
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