Russian air raids kill 13 civilians in Syria: monitor

Russian air raids kill 13 civilians in Syria: monitor
2 min read
14 March, 2019
Russian airstrikes targeting Syria’s Idlib province on Wednesday killed at least 13 civilians, a Britain-based monitor said.
The Idlib region is mainly controlled by the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [Getty]
At least 13 civilians including six children were killed in Russian airstrikes targeting Syria’s Idlib province on Wednesday, in the first such raids since a September truce deal, a monitor said.

Some 60 people were also wounded in the airstrikes that struck several areas in the northwestern province, which is Syria's last major rebel bastion, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Over the past 24 hours Russian aircraft have carried out dozens of raids targeting several regions in Idlib province, including the city of Idlib and the town of Saraqeb," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"These are the first Russian airstrikes against the province" since an accord struck by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September last year.

The truce deal was meant to stave off a planned offensive by the regime and its Russian backers that aid groups feared could spark the eight-year-old Syrian conflict's worst humanitarian crisis to date.

Under the deal, opposition backer Turkey would exert its influence over anti-regime groups in the Idlib region to have them pull back fighters and heavy weapons from a demilitarised zone.

The government assault on the last major bastion of rebel forces has been held off but the deal's provisions have not been implemented.

According to Abdel Rahman, a prison in a suburb of Idlib city was hit on Tuesday in the Russian strikes, sparking a jail break by dozens of inmates.

The Idlib region is mainly controlled by the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a Syrian group led by former al-Qaeda fighters, after they pushed back smaller, Turkey-backed rebel outfits in January.

Shelling by regime forces have forced around 90,000 people living in areas close to the frontlines - and some further afield - to flee their homes since the assaults began last month, according to the Response Coordination Team. 

The group reported that even when the shelling ends, the "large-scale destruction" of dozens of villages and towns will continue to stretch the resources of humanitarian groups, due to huge areas of Idlib now without basic infrastructure.

Earlier this week, NGOs said the situation had become so stark that they have been forced to halt operations inside Syria, leaving thousands of children without access to schools and disrupting civilian life.

"The humanitarian situation is very bad and work in schools and communities centres have stopped in areas such as Maarat al-Numan, Saraqib and northern Hama due to the continuous shelling," Lubna al-Kanawati, country manager for the Women Now For Development, told The New Arab.

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