Intense attacks by Bashar al-Assad's regime, Russia and Iran backed-groups have forced thousands of civilians to flee from Syria's Idlib province which has been designated de-escalation zone.

Since the offensive began last week, the regime and its allies have launched a military campaign mainly in the cities of Maarat Al-Numan and Saraqib as well as the surrounding rural areas.

The offensive has targeted hospitals, schools, mosques and houses to force civilians out of the cities and keep them away from their homes, according to Syria's Response Coordination Group.

Despite a de-escalation zone in the region, the regime and its allies have captured 26 villages.

On Monday, the Assad regime and its allied forces took control of 12 villages in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

The seized villages are Al-Modairesa, Abu Sharji, Al-Qarati, Karsatna, Al-Halba, Al-Tah, Al-Meisruneh, Mazraat Al-Khalifa, Tahtaya, Abu Makki, Al-Saqia and Al-Sarman.

On Sunday, the Assad regime and its allies captured the villages of Rajm Al-Qot, Al-Heraki, Al-Mentar, Sahal, Al-Sarj and Al-Sayyadi, all of which administratively belong to Maarat Al-Numan.

On Saturday, the captured villages were Tal Al-Sheikh, Farja, Breisah, Rabia, Oraiba, Shaara and Abu Habba, while on Friday, Umm Jalal and Umm Tinah were seized.

The current movements of Assad regime forces are close to Turkey's observation points, including one located some 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) east of Maarat Al-Numan in the southeastern countryside of Idlib province.

According to the Syrian armed opposition, the observation points located in Al-Surman village near Maarat Al-Numan could be subject to encirclement if the regime expands its offensive.

Imminent catastrophe

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that more than 80,000 people have fled the violence in Idlib and marched toward the Turkish border.

"If violence against the people of Idlib does not end, this number will rise further," Erdogan said, indicating the severity of the imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

According to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Idlib province is home to around three million civilians, 75% of whom are women and children.

In a press conference Monday, the coalition's vice president, Oqab Yahya, said the fierce attacks come as part of a major project aiming "to displace more than a million Syrian civilians."

The offensive deliberately destroys infrastructure and facilities to increase hardships and diminish the basic living needs of locals to discourage them from remaining in the region.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the zone as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

If aggression by the regime and its allies continues, Turkey and Europe will face the risk of another refugee influx.

Over a million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border following the intense attacks.

Since the eruption of Syria’s bloody civil war in 2011, Turkey has taken in over 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.