Syria’s government has abandoned an existing “conditional” ceasefire in Idlib accusing rebels, backed by Turkey of targeting a Russian airbase, the AFP news agency reported on Monday.
“Armed terrorist groups, backed by Turkey, refused to abide by the ceasefire and launched many attacks on civilians in surrounding areas. The armed forces will resume their military operations against terrorists,” Syrian military was quoted by state-run SANA as saying, referring to jihadists and rebels.
The current ceasefire came into force in June.
Shortly after Syria’s scrapping of the ceasefire, rebel fire struck near a key Russian airbase, Hmeimim, causing “great human and material losses”, AFP reported, citing SANA.
In retaliation for what the regime calls terrorist rebel attacks, Syria’s warplanes launched airstrikes on the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib’s southern countryside.
Earlier, the government of President Bashar al-Assad announced it would resume its airstrikes and shelling if Ankara “fails to meet its obligations” to implement the buffer zone by allowing the armed groups to continue carrying out attacks on the regime forces and its ally Russia.
Idlib is the last remaining bastion for the anti-government rebels against the al-Assad forces after eight years of civil war in Syria.
Moscow supports the al-Assad regime, while Ankara has been backing the rebels, notably the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) which controls a region that is home to some 3 million residents, including most of Idlib and parts of Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia.
Russia and Turkey signed the Sochi agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone last year. The agreement stated that “the cease-fire in the Idlib region will be preserved with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region.
However, in recent months, the deal has faltered, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing the area following the Russian-backed Syrian military’s airstrikes.
Syrian forces have also targeted Turkish army outposts in the region.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 450,000 people have been driven from their homes due to the violence, while around 500 civilians have been killed since April when the fighting broke out in the area.