World

COMMENT: The Battle For Idlib Is Far From Over And We Are Possibly Worsening It

The Idlib Health Directorate has reported 24 hospitals have been attacked in the last six weeks.

A building reduced to rubble in Idlib, Syria (Picture: PA).

By Professor David Nott OBE and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE, directors of 'Doctors Under Fire'

As we sit, in the bizarrely tranquil rolling plans of north-west Syria in the baking heat, just a few miles to our south in Maarat Numan, the Union of Syrian Medical Charities, who we support, is reporting up to 40 civilians killed in Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

The Idlib Health Directorate who we are working with on this trip, reports 24 hospitals attacked in the last six weeks in this hell on earth. 

Western governments seem to espouse that this carnage is nearly over and, when it is, Western millions will rebuild this shattered society. 

This may be the hopes and desires of mandarins sitting in ivory towers in Brussels, London and New York, but it is not the reality here at ground zero - it is far from done.

We have highlighted before the impact of not funding hospitals in Idlib directly, but funding those fortunate enough to have left Syria. 

Idlib syria CREDIT Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
"What we see today, within this country, is the results of these ‘easy’ and arbitrary decisions" (Picture: Hamish de Bretton-Gordon)

The fear amongst the NGOs here on the ground is that the UN Humanitarian Chief, Mark Lowcock, a Brit, carries out his threat to move humanitarian co-ordination from Jordan to Damascus. 

They all know they get nothing from Damascus, except ‘bombs and bullets’ and the aid will completely dry up - a bonkers proposal from every angle.

What we see today, within this country, is the results of these ‘easy’ and arbitrary decisions. 

Funding has all but dried up, support staff and infrastructure in Turkey are being disposed of and many hospitals we are engaged with only have funds to pay staff for three months maximum. 

We do not underestimate the complexities of Idlib, but as we turn our collective blind eye, the terrorists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are gaining strength and stature, and on the face of it offering a viable alternative to the 3 million civilians trapped here.

Watch: Hamish de Bretton-Gordon speaks to Forces News about the situation in Idlib, from where he has just returned.

It is true that Idlib in the main is governed by the Jihadists, the old Al Nusrah and a few other Al Qaeda offshoots, and a smattering of ISIS, who as the self-styled 'Salvation' government is trying to portray themselves as moderate and legitimate politicians.

Nobody outside swallows this, nor do the 3 million inside; but with the West waiting for their subjugation and envelopment back into the tyrannical Assad dictatorship, the terrorists are at least appearing to be a viable option. 

As the UK, the US and other monies dry up, it is now the Jihadists who are offering to pay doctors and staff. 

Their money comes from punitive taxes, black marketeering, extortion, kidnappings etc, all the traits which made the Caliphate so effective for a few years, and which we all invested so much military and other collateral in destroying.

Syria Map General 230119 CREDIT Bing
"The direct targeting of hospitals in Syria, like the use of chemical weapons, is now normalised."

It is virtually impossible to get the feel for this place without being here, and few non-Syrians have experienced this over the last four years. 

We are perhaps the least cautious for our safety and most cavalier in our support for medics in Syria, but it is our first trip in for three years. 

We do not mean to be over-critical or puritanical about those who hold the purse strings to this place at such distance, but it is our money and they do it in our name, so we hope they will listen to us.

It is for the NGOs and civilians of Idlib that we stick our head above the parapet in the hope the UN, US and UK will at least give Idlib another glance.

Our plea to Guterres, Trump and Johnson is to keep funding these doctors and protect them and their hospitals, or the Jihadists will. 

The direct targeting of hospitals in Syria, like the use of chemical weapons, is now normalised. 

We still see these two imposters as crimes against humanity and so should all. If we do not, we will see similar on the streets of London, Paris and New York and that will be a carnage we cannot collectively ignore.