Russian, Syrian air strikes kill 20 in rebel-held Idlib: Observatory

At least 20 civilians in northwestern Syria, including women and children, have been killed in airstrikes carried out by the Syrian government forces and the Russian military, a human rights group said.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, the civilians on Tuesday died as a result of attacks carried out in towns and villages in Idlib province against opposition forces.

The Observatory also stated that attacks included “barrel bombs,” drums and containers packed with large amounts of explosives and metal pieces, the usage of which is condemned by the United Nations as they can cause indiscriminate damage over vast areas.

After eight and a half years of war in the country, the northwest Idlib region is the last significant swathe of Syrian territory that still serves as an anti-government stronghold.

The region is home to over two million locals and more than a million internally displaced people who had to flee other parts of Syria as forces of President Bashar al-Assad retook large areas of the country after Russia began to support his government in early 2015.

Reuters said in a report that witnesses and rescuers in the region confirm that at least 17 people have lost their lives in the recent attacks carried out in Idlib’s Maasran, Bdama, and Tal Manas towns.

Syrian state media reported no military operations by the Syrian army or its Russian ally in those areas, Reuters also noted.

A ceasefire deal for the region reached in September 2018 between Russia and Turkey, which supports the anti-government forces in Syria, has effectively collapsed, leading to a resumption of airstrikes since the end of April.

Some 1,300 civilians have been killed in the Idlib de-escalation zone in the past seven months in attacks that have reportedly been carried out on schools, markets, and medical facilities.

Reuters cited rebels and diplomats saying that there has been no significant ground offensive since last month when the Turkish-backed forces retook territory seized by Moscow and its Syrian allies in rural parts of east Idlib.

Western diplomatic sources reportedly argue that the primary objective of the Damascus government, which has vowed to recover all of Idlib, is to retake key pre-war highways that pass through the province to strengthen Syria’s sanctions-battered economy.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) on Tuesday said in a report that a total of 110,000 civilians had been forced to leave Idlib since November due to the intensifying attacks, with 12,000 of them abandoning the area and heading for the Turkish border after Tuesday’s airstrikes.

Both Turkey, which has taken in over 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country since the civil war began in 2011, and the European continent face the risk of another refugee influx if the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies continue, AA also said.

Meanwhile, the US Senate recently approved new sanctions on Syria, Iran, and Russia because of the war crimes the three countries committed in the Syrian conflict.

The sanctions on the Syrian regime officials, civilian and military leaders, and anyone associated with them who participated in atrocities, such as the mercenary groups contracted by the trio’s militaries, were on Tuesday voted to be implemented within six months.

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