Airstrikes in north­west Syria kill 14 civil­ians

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

SARMEEN, Syria: Airstrikes by the Syr­ian regime and its Rus­sian ally Sun­day killed 14 civil­ians in the last ma­jor op­po­si­tion bas­tion of Idlib in the coun­try’s north­west, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said.

Moscow-backed gov­ern­ment forces have upped their deadly bom­bard­ment of the ji­hadi-dom­i­nated re­gion in re­cent weeks, chip­ping at its south­ern edge and caus­ing tens of thou­sands to flee their homes.

Eight of those killed Sun­day died in a regime bar­rel bomb at­tack in the town of Sarmeen, seven from the same fam­ily, the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

Res­cue work­ers pulled the bod­ies of a 9-year-old girl and a 13year-old boy from the debris of a two-story build­ing, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent in the town said.

Their fa­ther, Abu Fida, stood by weep­ing. “It’s a ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter,” he said. Abu Fida said he and his fam­ily had fled bom­bard­ment on Sarmeen Thurs­day, with just the clothes on their back.

They re­turned Satur­day night to col­lect their be­long­ings, de­cid­ing to spend a last night at home be­fore leav­ing for good. “I wanted to get my fam­ily out this morn­ing but my wife told me to go to work. So I sent them a driver with a car to trans­port their things,” but then air­craft hit the house, he told AFP.

His wife was in­side the house when it was struck, but he sur­vived with three other chil­dren.

In re­cent months, pro-Da­m­as­cus forces have pressed north­ward along the M5 high­way that con­nects the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus to sec­ond city Aleppo in the north, crossing Idlib.

Last week the gov­ern­ment forces re­took the key town of Maaret alNu­man along the high­way and are now just few kilo­me­tres from the aban­doned town of Saraqeb.

Clashes are also rag­ing in the bas­tion’s eastern flank in Aleppo prov­ince, where state news agency SANA said four tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ists were wounded Sun­day.

The jour­nal­ists for a pro-Da­m­as­cus chan­nel and two Ara­bic-lan­guage Ira­nian out­lets were tar­geted by “ter­ror­ists,” SANA said, us­ing its blan­ket term for jihadis and rebels. A Turk­ish-Rus­sian deal in 2018 saw Turk­ish troops de­ploy at ob­ser­va­tion posts around Idlib, but the agree­ment has failed to stem re­peated regime mil­i­tary of­fen­sives.

Sun­day morn­ing, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent and the Ob­ser­va­tory said a Turk­ish mil­i­tary con­voy of hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles en­tered north­ern Syria.

In­creased vi­o­lence since early De­cem­ber has forced around 388,000 peo­ple to es­cape their homes in north­west­ern Syria, the United Na­tions says. The Ob­ser­va­tory says that more than 260 civil­ians have been killed. –

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