Russian strikes kill dozens amid brutal regime onslaught in Syria's Idlib

Russian strikes kill dozens amid brutal regime onslaught in Syria's Idlib
As many as 28 people have been killed by Russian and Syrian regime bombardment over the past 24 hours.
3 min read
10 February, 2020
The fierce campaign to reclaim Idlib has displaced almost 600,000 since December [Anadolu]
Russian airstrikes on Monday killed at least five civilians in Syria's last opposition bastion, bringing the death toll to 25 in less than 24 hours, a monitor said.

Early morning raids hit a populous village in Aleppo province where battles between opposition groups and Syrian regime forces backed by Moscow have raged for weeks, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

At least one child was among the five dead, several of whom were internally displaced persons, it added.

The strikes followed a night of heavy bombardment by Russia and the regime that left at least 20 civilians dead in the neighbouring provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, according to the UK-based monitor.

The death toll could stand as high as 28 dead over the last day, a source from Syria's White Helmets told The New Arab.

With the crucial and devastating aid of Russian air power, Damascus accelerated its campaign to capture the northwestern province of Idlib in December and has seen success in recent weeks, capturing large chunks of territory largely destroyed and vacated by civilians.

The violence has killed more than 300 civilians and sent some 586,000 fleeing towards the Turkish border. 

Most of them are living in open-air shelters and temporary homes in freezing winter conditions.

Some three million people, half of them already displaced by Syria's devastating war, live in Idlib.

On Sunday, raids by Russia left 14 people dead, including nine in the village of Kar Nuran in southwestern Aleppo province, the Obsevatory said.

Syrian bombardment with devastating barrel bombs also killed four civilians in the Atareb district east of Aleppo, while another died in artillery fire near the city of Jisr al-Shughur and one in Ketian village in southern Idlib.

Damascus and Moscow have intensified their attacks on Aleppo in recent days as regime forces close in on a two-kilometre section of the M5 highway that remains outside of their control.

The crucial artery connects Damascus to second city Aleppo and is economically vital to the government after nine-years of war.

Syria's military spokesman General Ali Mayhoub said that regime forces had gained a strategic advantage in recent days with the capture of the key town of Saraqeb, according to a statement carried by Syria's state news agency. 

The continuing regime advance comes despite continued threats by Turkey over the violation of a ceasefire brokered by rebel-backer Ankara and Moscow.

"If the agreement keeps being violated, we have Plan B and Plan C," Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in an interview with the Hurriyet daily published on Sunday.

"We on every occasion say 'do not force us, otherwise our Plan B and Plan C are ready'."

He did not give explicit details, but referred to Ankara's military campaigns in Syria since 2016.

As part of a 2018 deal with Russia, Turkey set up 12 observation posts in Idlib and Turkish security sources said this week three of them have now been encircled by forces loyal to Assad.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given Damascus until the end of the month to pull back from the outposts and urged Russia to convince the regime to halt its offensive.

Eight Turks were killed on Monday by regime shelling prompting a response by the Turkish army. 

Since Friday, Turkey has shipped large convoys of vehicles carrying commanos, tanks and howitzers to shore up its military posts in Idlib. 

Unconfirmed reports on Monday suggest opposition forces have launched a new offensive to reclaim Saraqeb from the regime with the use of Turkish-supplied armoured vehicles and weaponry. 

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