Recent regime offense in northern Syria creating new tragedies
The Syrian regime's ongoing attacks targeting civilians and residences in northern Syria continue to cause new humanitarian tragedies every day.
The story of Yusra al-Shomali is one example of these humanitarian tragedies. Shomali, who lost her husband, a son and her home to Syria's eight-year war and found refuge in opposition-held territory near the Turkish border, is now trying to survive with her daughters as regime forces intensify their offense in the region.
The Bashar Assad regime launched its major offensive against northwestern Syria, the last major stronghold of the opposition, in late April.
Fleeing the al-Waer district of Homs, 52-year-old Shomali and her daughters settled in a village near the Turkish border built for victims of the war. "Things are good here, but it's not like your own neighborhood," she said, expressing her gratitude of being provided opportunities such as housing, water, electricity, food aid and schooling in the village.
The village hosting 650 people in 100 apartments was built with Turkish and Qatari aid money and is located a few hundred meters from the Turkish border, its director Samer al-Qirbi said.
Stating that the violence continues to move further north, he added: "Today, all Syrians have come to the border."
Northwestern Syria, including Idlib province and parts of neighboring provinces, has an estimated 3 million inhabitants, about half of whom had already fled the fighting elsewhere, according to the United Nations. Over the past five weeks, hundreds of people have been killed by shell fire and airstrikes, more than 300,000 people have fled the front lines and even hospitals have been bombed. Many of those leaving their homes or temporary shelters have ended up sleeping in makeshift bivouacs along the border with Turkey, hoping for protection from the bombardment.
Shomali's 11-year-old daughter Hayat remembers the day the shelling destroyed their old home in the al-Waer district, the last opposition enclave in the city of Homs to surrender to the government: "I went into the kitchen and felt a huge pressure forcing me back out, and then I fainted."
While Hayat and her sister were luckily pulled out alive that day, their 18 neighbors were not so fortunate. By the time they left Homs in 2016, Shomali's husband was dead, shot by a sniper in 2012 at the age of 50. Her younger son, Alaeddine, was also gone, killed in a battle at the age of 28, nine months after leaving the family to join a rebel group.
Today, Shomali continues her life with her daughters Hayat and Nour and her son Abdo, who had left Homs early in the war to become a refugee in Lebanon and joined the family early this year.
However, Shomali is unable to forget the loss of her other son. "Most of all what I miss is my son coming into the house," she said. "Everything else is unimportant."