Russian warplanes strike Idlib in heaviest bombardment since ceasefire

Russian warplanes strike Syria's rebel-held Idlib in heaviest bombardment since ceasefire
3 min read
20 September, 2020
Russian warplanes on Sunday launched approximately 30 strikes on the rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib, following increasing disagreements with Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels.
Russian warplanes struck several areas on the outskirts of Idlib city [Getty]
Russian warplanes on Sunday struck the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwestern Syria and surrounding areas with approximately 30 strikes on Sunday, the heaviest bombardment since a Turkish-Russian ceasefire deal nearly six months ago.

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.

Read also: Syria Insight – Cautious hope for change with constitution talks

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.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay connected