IDLIB, PALESTINOW.COM — As the regime offensive in northern Syria shows no sign of slowing down, it will be a sombre Eid for hundreds of thousands.
On either Tuesday or Wednesday, the world’s 1.8 billion will celebrate the festival of Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
But for many in northern Syria, the day will bring little joy, as the religious holiday will be spent dodging regime bombs or living destitute in makeshift camps for the internally displaced.
In late April, forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad stepped up a campaign to reclaim the rebel-held province of Idlib, as well as surrounding areas.
The regime has relied heavily on the aerial bombardment of civilian-dense areas in its efforts to wrest control of territory from rebel fighters, killing hundreds of civilians in the process.
Upwards of 200,000 civilians, including many who had previously fled conflict in other areas of Syria, have fled to rebel held areas further north, leaving the region on the brink of a fresh humanitarian crisis.
They include 13-year-old Ahmad al Ali, originally from the village of Kafr Nabouda in Idlib, who fled his home with his parents and his two younger brothers after intense regime attacks nearby.
From his new home, a small tent in Maraat al Nouman, Ali says his days are spent simply praying for the bombs to stop. He does not expect that to change, even during Eid.
“We spent our last Eid at home with our family and neighbours who are in different places now,” he tells TRT World.
“Some died or were wounded when air strikes hit our district four weeks ago,” he adds. “I don’t know where they are now or whether they’re safe or not.”
The areas now under attack in Idlib and its surrounds were part of a de-escalation zone agreed by Russia and Turkey in 2017. Many living in the area had arrived there from other areas from Syria, believing it was safe from regime attack.
Joint strikes by Russia and forces loyal to Assad, however, have shattered that perception, leaving both aid groups and civilians poorly prepared to deal with the resulting displacement crisis.
Ali shares his tent with two of his uncles and their families and food and clean water are scarce on the best of days.
“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to think about the Eid celebration,” he says.
“My only hope is that we’re not forced to move again,” he adds, referring to the threat of further displacement due to encroaching air raids by Assad warplanes.
Even small pleasures, like playing with friends outside, are denied to Ali, whose mother has prevented him from going out for too long, fearing that he might get caught up in a bombing.
“I couldn’t even take the books I had under my bed when we fled,” he says