Syrian regime accused of ethnic cleansing

Western security forces have warned the humanitarian crisis in parts of Syria could “outweigh” the situation in Aleppo, as aid workers claim the ceasefire isn’t working. A classified document, seen by Sky News, says Syrian government forces have “ethnically cleansed swathes of Syria” with help from their partners Russia and Iran. The grim assessment brings into question the fragile ceasefire in place and raises the possibility that Turkey, a NATO country, could be drawn further into the conflict. “I think the concern is justified,” said Charles Lister, an expert on Syria for the Middle East Institute in Washington. “The regime has had a pretty clear strategy backed up by its international supporters to displace it opponents into specific areas, and in particular Idlib.”

We should expect, if this currently existing ceasefire erodes, we should expect a pretty significant regime attempt to take back that east Ghouta area. Idlib will come later, it’s a much more significant operation for the regime.

Charles Lister, Expert on Syria for the Middle East Institute in Washington

An estimated two million civilians and oppositionists are now “kettled” in Idlib. A further 450,000 are trapped in the enclave of East Ghouta. The Syrian regime, with the support of Russia and Iran, is expected to heavily bomb these areas if they meet any resistance, resulting in a massacre if humanitarian corridors aren’t opened. Despite the publicised recall of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, Russia’s military deployment in Syria is unlikely to reduce in the short-term. If anything it has increased. It’s thought Moscow has a force of around 5,000 in Syria to cement recent gains. Iran is also expected to retain its presence, with at least 15,000 militia fighting on behalf of President Assad’s regime.