U.N. adviser Egeland says ‘tremendous battles’ still loom in Syria

Syria could see “tremendous battles” for two remaining rebel enclaves even once a government onslaught on the last insurgent pocket near Damascus is over, a senior United Nations (U.N.) adviser said on Wednesday (March 14).

International attention has focused on the battle for besieged eastern Ghouta outside the capital and for Afrin in the far north where Turkey sent in forces to combat Kurdish militia it sees as a threat to its security.

But they are not the last flashpoints as Syria’s war enters its eighth year, three years after the tide began turning in the government’s favour, said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a senior U.N. adviser on Syria.

He said he feared that after eastern Ghouta there would be “tremendous battles” in and around Idlib, in the far northwest, and, in Deraa, in the south.

To stem one of the worst effects of the fighting – air strikes on medical facilities – Egeland said a new notification system for the coordinates of more than a dozen hospitals had gone into effect in the last few days.

Battles for Idlib and Deraa would be the latest in a string of increasingly bitter and cruel “end battles”, in which civilians were caught between warring sides, following fighting for Homs, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, Egeland said.

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