Syrian regime traps civilians in besieged city as death toll mounts

Syrian regime traps civilians in besieged city as death toll mounts
16 people have been killed in airstrikes in Syria’s Idlib province as the regime trapped civilians in the besieged city of Maaret al-Numan, striking any car attempting to evacuate people.
3 min read
22 December, 2019
At least 16 people were killed in airstrikes [Getty]
At least 16 people were killed in airstrikes in Idlib province in the past 24 hours as a ferocious regime and Russian assault on the Syrian rebel-held area continued.

The regime has also trapped civilians in Maaret al-Numan, killing an unknown number of people there, and captured 21 villages amid reports of a high death toll among regime soldiers.

An estimated 400 airstrikes took place on Saturday

A source from the Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that eight civilians, including three women, were killed when the town of Saraqeb was hit by airstrikes.

A child was also killed near the town of Bdama in western Idlib province.

Three more people were killed in Russian airstrikes on Deir al-Sharqi, near the besieged town of Maaret al-Numan in southern Idlib, the source said. Two more were killed in an overnight airstrike on Talmans, also near Maaret al-Numan.

Read more: Syrians organize evacuation of besieged Maaret al-Numan

An estimated 80,000 people have fled Maaret al-Numan this week as a result of an ongoing regime assault on the city.

Activists in the city say the regime is conducting a campaign of “extermination” in Maaret al-Numan, targeting civilians who remain, with missiles and barrel bombs, and those fleeing, with machine fire and shelling.

On Sunday morning regime and Russian planes bombed vehicles that were evacuating civilians from the city. Abu Bahr, a worker who monitors the movement of military aircraft in Idlib province told The New Arab’s Arabic service that planes were circling the city and striking any vehicle which moved in the city.

He said that a plane struck two cars which tried to leave Maaret al-Numan, killing and injuring people, but the number of casualties was not known because ambulances could not reach the site of the airstrike.

Abu Bahr added that 2,000 families remain in Maaret al-Numan and that distress calls had been heard on the radio, but no vehicle could reach them.

The regime has also captured 21 villages in Idlib province, and the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper reported that this has brought it closer to its goal of taking over the M5 highway which links Damascus and Aleppo.

However, the National Liberation Front rebel group and the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Islamist militant group said that they have killed dozens of regime troops in the latest round of fighting. Pro-regime pages said that 55 regime troops had been killed.

The latest airstrikes have brought the civilian death toll from a week long Russian and regime escalation against Idlib to at least 75.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib since Russia and the regime resumed airstrikes against the rebel-held province at the beginning of November following a two-month lull.

The Syrian First Responders Team estimates that 203,709 people have fled their homes as a result of the bombing campaign. Displaced people often have to take shelter in fields and olive groves because there is no room for them in refugee camps.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011, following the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of peaceful protests. More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since then, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

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