Dozens killed as Syria regime continues Idlib offensive unabated
Syrian regime forces backed up by Russian warplanes led a deadly campaign against its citizens in the country’s northwest on Thursday, killing 28 people, at least seven of whom were civilians, a war monitor said on Friday, despite a ceasefire announced by Moscow just a day earlier.
The civilians were killed in regime airstrikes and shelling on the south of Idlib province and the north of Hama province on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
Russian and regime airstrikes also killed 21 Islamist fighters in the same region the same day, the UK-based monitor added.
Local sources told The New Arab's sister publication that Russian airstrikes targeted refugee camps in southern Aleppo province and residential areas in Hama with rockets and cluster bombs.
The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, added that on top of civilian casualties, the airstrikes have set fire to civilian crops and damaged homes.
The Idlib region in the northwest corner of Syria houses some three million people who have fled fighting in the rest of the country. It is supposed to be protected from any large-scale regime offensives by a buffer zone deal agreed by Russia and Turkey in September.
However the deal was never fully implemented as rebel fighters refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone, and Russian and regime forces continued their campaigns against both militants and civilians seeking refuge in the territory.
On Friday, opposition-backer Turkey lambasted Russia for failing to implement the renewed ceasefire which it announced just a day earlier.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he did not accept Russia's "excuse" that Syria would not listen to Moscow and stop regime strikes in Idlib province.
In January, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.
The Syrian regime and its Russia backers have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 360 civilians, according to the Observatory.
Due to overcrowding and stretched resources in the province, where at least one third of residents are children, campaigns like those witnessed against opposition areas in East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta would cause devastating bloodshed.
Worryingly, a heavily laden Russian tanker, thought to be carrying weapons, was spotted heading for Tartus, Russia’s military base on the Syrian coast on Thursday.
Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and Islamist militants.
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