Syria hits back at crit­i­cism over cam­paign in rebel-held re­gion

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BEIRUT: The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment hit back yes­ter­day against French crit­i­cism of its mil­i­tary cam­paign in rebel-held Idlib, say­ing it was tar­get­ing ter­ror­ist groups that were not party to a deal to re­duce fight­ing in the re­gion.

France said on Wed­nes­day that it was ex­tremely con­cerned by the gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive in Idlib, the big­gest re­main­ing chunk of Syria still held by anti-gov­ern­ment rebels, and de­manded that com­mit­ments made to re­duce hos­til­i­ties there be re­spected.

Turkey, which bor­ders Idlib, also called on Rus­sia and Iran to put pres­sure on Da­m­as­cus to halt the of­fen­sive in a cor­ner of Syria whose pop­u­la­tion has been swollen by Syr­i­ans flee­ing of­fen­sives else­where.

Syr­ian state me­dia, cit­ing a for­eign min­istry source, said the French for­eign min­istry had shown “great ig­no­rance about what was hap­pen­ing in ru­ral Idlib province”, which it said the army was fight­ing to “lib­er­ate from the ter­ror­ism of the Nusra Front and the other ter­ror bod­ies that be­long to it”. The state­ment also de­nied the army had tar­geted civil­ians or hos­pi­tals, as al­leged by Paris.

Turkey has ac­cused Syria of us­ing the pres­ence of the Nusra Front, which now fights un­der the ban­ner of the Tahrir al-Sham al­liance, as an ex­cuse to at­tack civil­ians and mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion groups.

Gov­ern­ment forces backed by al­lied mili­tia are tar­get­ing an air base in south-east­ern Idlib.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian aid or­gan­i­sa­tions, rescuers and ac­tivists al­lege the Syr­ian and Rus­sian air forces strike hos­pi­tals, schools and mar­ket places in con­gested res­i­den­tial ar­eas in rebel-held towns.

Both the Syr­ian army and Moscow deny hit­ting civil­ian ar­eas and say in­ten­sive raids only strike at mil­i­tants.

Ear­lier this month, jets bombed a ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal in the city of Maarat al-Nu­man, a hos­pi­tal serv­ing thou­sands of peo­ple, killing five peo­ple in­clud­ing a new­born and in­jur­ing scores, said the Syr­ian Amer­i­can Med­i­cal So­ci­ety and other re­lief groups.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.