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Syria: Russian airstrikes kill 16 civilians in Idlib

5th Mar 2020
Syria: Russian airstrikes kill 16 civilians in Idlib

By Esref Musa and Mehmet Burak Karacaoglu


IDLIB, Syria (AA): Russia carried out airstrikes in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, Syria, killing at least 16 civilians, a Syrian civil defense group said Thursday as Israel fires missiles into Syria.

The controversial White Helmets civil defense group said 16 civilians were killed and 18 others injured in the attacks.

The Syrian opposition aircraft observatory alleged the Russian jets targeted civilians who took refuge in a poultry farm in Maarrat Misrin, a town in Idlib province.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in the area.

Syrian air defenses have intercepted several Israeli missiles over Quneitra province in the country’s southwest and the central province of Homs, reports say.

“At 00:30 on Thursday our air defense monitored Israeli warplanes coming from northern occupied Palestine towards Sidon, and several missiles were fired from Lebanese airspace towards the central area,” Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying.

The source added that the missiles were intercepted successfully, and failed to hit any of their targets.

In another report, Xinhua news agency reported that the Syrian air defense intercepted Israeli missiles in Homs province in the early hours of Thursday.

According to the report, the missiles were fired from Israeli warplanes over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and from Lebanese airspace.

The Syrian Government and its allies have been carrying out intensified air and land attacks in Idlib de-escalation zone.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But since then, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces who flouted a 2018 ceasefire and a new one that began on Jan. 12.

However, the Kremlin has said Turkey had failed to deliver on a promise to neutralise extremists in Idlib, something it called unacceptable, the Foreign Ministry reminded Ankara its forces were in Syria without the blessing of the Syrian government, and the Defence Ministry said Turkish troops were seriously aggravating the situation on the ground in Idlib.

The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement  that “The real reason for the crisis in the Idlib de-escalation zone unfortunately is the non-fulfilment by our Turkish colleagues of their undertakings to separate moderate opposition militants from terrorists.”

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of terrorist groups, is the strongest militant groups in northern Syria and largely controls Idlib province, including the provincial capital and the border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa.

The UN, US and Turkey consider HTS group associated with al-Qa’ida as a terrorist organisation.

Other main rebel groups in Idlib are: National Liberation Front (Turkish-backed rebel alliance); Hurras al-Din (pro-al-Qa’ida HTS offshoot) and Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP, Chinese Uighur-dominated group)

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year.

Turkey remains the country with the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million Syrians since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz in Ankara.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Archive photo: Damaged buildings are seen after Russian warplanes carried out a number of attacks in Idlib On March 3 2020. Photographer: Muhammed Said/AA]

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