HTS spokesman among ten killed in Syrian regime strike
Syrian regime artillery strikes on southern Idlib province killed at least ten people and injured eleven others on Thursday morning, including Abu Khaled al-Shami, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist Hayaat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) group which dominates the rebel-held province.
Initial shelling hit a car in the village of Iblin in the Jabal al-Zawiya area of rebel-held Idlib province, 25 kilometres southwest of Idlib city, killing a mother and her infant child according to the the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
One civilian man was also killed.
The SOHR reported that after the regime's initial strikes, fighters arrived at the scene. A second strike by regime forces then killed seven other people, all of whom were members of HTS or other Syrian rebel groups operating in Idlib.
Along with Abu Khaled Al-Shami, a media coordinator for HTS known as Abu Musab, was also killed.
Later reports indicated that Moataz Al-Nasser, an HTS security commander, was also among the dead.
A statement from a local HTS affiliate group known as the Popular Resistance Companies (Saraya al-Muqawama al-Shaabiya) confirmed the death of Al-Shami, calling him a martyr and offering his family condolences.
Regime forces have in the past week launched a series of strikes on the Jabal Al-Zawiya area in violation of a March 2020 ceasefire agreement between Turkey, which supports the Syrian rebels, and Russia, which backs the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.
An AFP correspondent in the area saw the remains of a house destroyed by the rocket fire, as well as a charred vehicle parked outside.
The bodies of several victims were lined on the floor and covered with blankets.
Syrian rebels say the regime's escalation is part of an attempt by Russia to put pressure on Turkey ahead of negotiations on the war due to be held in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, at the end of June.
The escalation has also been linked to Russian attempts to close a border crossing between Turkey and Syria which millions of people depend on for aid.
More than three million people live in rebel-held northwestern Syria, half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
The conflict in Syria has killed over 500,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations by the Assad regime.
Agencies contributed to this report.