Russian warplanes strike Idlib in heaviest bombardment since ceasefire
Local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that nine Russian planes bombed Idlib's western outskirts, as well as the Arab-Saeed and Batanta areas north west of the city.
The strikes targeted positions belonging to the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, as well as other armed Islamist groups, according to the sources. The planes took off from Russia's Hemeimim airbase near Latakia.
"These thirty raids are by far the heaviest strikes so far since the ceasefire deal," Mohammed Rasheed, a former rebel official and a volunteer plane spotter whose network covers the Russian air base in the western coastal province of Latakia, told Reuters.
No casualties were reported from the strikes. Idlib city is the capital of a province of the same name which is mostly held by anti-regime Syrian rebels.
Bashar Assad's regime forces also shelled several towns in southern Idlib province, including Al-Bara and Kensafra.
Following a bloody regime and Russian campaign against Idlib province in 2019 and early 2020, which killed hundreds of people and displaced over a million more, Turkey and Russia, which back opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, reached a ceasefire deal in March.
While the regime often violates the ceasefire in the province, Russian airstrikes had become relatively infrequent.
The latest strikes came two days after Russian-Turkish talks in Ankara, in which Russia demanded that Turkey reduce its troop presence in Idlib province.
Turkey maintains about sixty military observation posts and positions in the rebel-held province and has recently sent in 20 armoured vehicles.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Friday that the “political process” in Idlib could end soon if agreement with Russia is not reached.
"We need to preserve the ceasefire in the Idlib are first of all," he told CNN Turk, before adding that talks between Turkish and Russian military experts in Ankara were "not particularly fruitful".
Recently, joint Russian-Turkish patrols on the strategic M4 highway, which links Aleppo and Latakia and passes through Idlib, were suspended as a result of increasing disagreements between the two sides.