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Dozens killed in prison airstrike in Syria's Idlib

White Helmets personnel fight a fire reportedly caused by airstrikes in Idlib [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2017

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The dead included both prisoners and prison guards, while a number of prisoners were shot dead as they attempted to flee after airstrikes struck the prison.
At least sixteen people were killed overnight when airstrikes struck a prison in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Saturday.

The monitoring group said that the dead included both prisoners and prison guards, adding that it had received information that a number of prisoners were shot dead while attempting to flee after airstrikes struck the prison. 

Syrian regime and Russian aircraft routinely conduct aerial missions over Idlib province, which is a key stronghold of rebels, including extremist factions fighting against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in the last ten days intensified joint Syrian and Russian campaigns in Idlib province have lead to the deaths of at least 59 civilians, among them over 20 children under the age of 18, as a result of air raids and artillery strikes. 

Civilian deaths, said the monitor, have been reported in areas of the province including Idlib city, Jisr al-Shughour and Khan Sheikhan.

The US-lead coalition has also carried out airstrikes in Idlib province targeting Islamic State group militants. Earlier this month it said it was investigating claims that over 40 people were killed in airstrikes it carried out in the province, which borders Turkey. 

Idlib city was the second city in Syria to fall from government control in March 2015 when it was captured by a coalition of rebel groups called the Army of Conquest which included the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, now rebranded Fateh al-Sham. 

Despite a ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey, which backs rebels fighting against Assad, and regime ally Russia, violence continues unabated on many fronts across Syria. 

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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