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The New Arab Staff

Syrian regime bombs Idlib villages amid fears of major offensive

Syrian regime forces have frequently shelled the village of Banin despite a ceasefire [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 July, 2020

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The Syrian regime has bombed villages in rebel-held Idlib province, injuring two people, as humanitarian workers said that they feared a new regime offensive could displace thousands of people.

Syrian regime forces on Friday bombed villages in rebel-held areas of southern Idlib province as fears grew of a large scale regime offensive to take control of the area south of the strategic M4 highway which links the cities of Aleppo and Latakia.

Following a regime and Russian military campaign in late 2019 and early 2020 which killed hundreds of people and displaced nearly a million more, Turkey and Russia agreed to a ceasefire in rebel-held Idlib province in March.

However, the ceasefire is frequently violated by the regime and its allies.

Local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that regime forces and their pro-Iranian militia allies had shelled the village of Banin in the Jabal al-Zawiya area of southern Idlib province on Friday morning, after overnight clashes with rebel forces who stopped a regime advance on the village.

Read also: Russia weaponises aid as Syrians go hungry

Several other villages in the rebel-held Al-Ghab area of neighbouring Hama province were also bombed on Friday.

The Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, said that two people were injured and published pictures of aid workers evacuating the injured.

This was the second time in two days that this area was bombed. Sources told The New Arab’s Arabic service that the regime’s escalation was accompanied by overflights by Russian warplanes.

They said that the regime had been massing troops near the area for a potential offensive.

On Friday, a statement from the Syrian First Responders Team, a humanitarian umbrella group, condemned recent “aggressive statements” by the regime and Russia as well as the regime’s military buildup.

The statement said that Idlib was unable to handle any further displacement of refugees. The First Responders Team said that it had recorded 1,597 violations of the ceasefire since March and the deaths of 18 civilians as a result.

The displacement of nearly a million people as a result of regime and Russian attacks in 2019 and early 2020 caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with refugees being forced to seek shelter in the open air because there was no room for them in already overcrowded refugee camps, which house people from other parts of Syria who were forced to flee to Idlib as a result of regime advances elsewhere.

Since the March ceasefire many of those displaced earlier have returned to their homes but the statement noted that there was a growing fear among them because of regime and Russian indications that they may carry out a new military attack.

The Syrian news website Enab Baladi also reported on Friday that rebels from the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation had sent reinforcements to counter a possible regime offensive in southern Idlib.

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