The Washington Post

Russian, Israeli airstrikes target 2 Syrian regions

Separate attacks leave at least 10 dead, media, first responders say

- BY SARAH DADOUCH

BEIRUT — At least 10 people were killed in Syria overnight and Friday morning, following Israeli strikes on the capital in the south and Russian strikes in the northwest of the country.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported Israeli strikes coming from the disputed Golan Heights shortly after midnight Friday, killing three soldiers, wounding seven others and causing material damage.

Jordanian state television later reported that the toll of Syrian soldiers rose to five.

Syria regularly reports airstrikes from southern neighbor Israel, its long-standing sworn enemy. The strikes, rarely acknowledg­ed by Israel, typically target military installati­ons, arms depots, and other locations that are under the control of Iran-aligned groups.

Last month, airstrikes that the government attributed to Israel hit Syria’s main airport in the capital, Damascus, heavily damaging runways and at least one hall in the airport’s terminal.

The full extent of the damage and casualties caused by such strikes cannot be verified.

On the other side of the country in the northweste­rn Idlib countrysid­e, Russian airstrikes killed seven civilians, according to local first responder group the White Helmets. One strike leveled a modest building in an olive grove that was formerly a chicken farm, the White Helmets media office told The Washington Post, killing four children from one family. Another strike killed two men who had approached the scene after the initial attack.

Photos published by the group show a gutted building with rubble and colorful blankets and pillows spilling out. One showed the corpse of a young girl, half her body sticking out from under the rubble, her wrist adorned with gold bracelets. Another was of her bloodied uncle, sitting barefoot and cross-legged, watching the civil defense members carry out their job.

The children’s father and mother are being treated in a hospital, the White Helmets said, who identified the family as displaced from a village in the northeaste­rn Aleppo countrysid­e.

Another attack struck civilian residences nearby, killing a man on a motorcycle, the group said.

Russia is a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-assad, whose brutal crackdown on popular protests that erupted in 2011 largely made him a global pariah. Russia’s military interventi­on in 2015 was a lifeline for Assad, who at the time had lost large swaths of Syria to various rebel and extremist groups.

Assad has since gained back much of the territory he had lost, and as his troops, backed by Iranian-aligned groups and Russian air power, won back territory, his government loaded green buses with former rebels, their families and supporters and sent them to the northwest of the country.

The enclave, which sprawls across Idlib province and surroundin­g areas, is host to roughly 4.5 million people, many of them displaced multiple times by the war. The area is controlled by opposition militant groups, and worsening overall living conditions have left 4.1 million in need of humanitari­an assistance.

Airstrikes have become a tragic norm for Syrians living in the area: Young children who grew up in the decade-long war are able to identify planes and the level of impact their strike will have. But Idlib had gone through a period of relative calm in the last few months, following a raid in February by U.S. commandos on the home of Abu Ibrahim al-hashimi al- Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group.

The last Russian strike had been 10 days earlier, hitting military targets that had exchanged artillery and missile fire with Syrian government troops.

According to findings by a Syria-focused rights group this week, Russian and Syrian government­s have carried out dozens of “double tap” airstrikes on civilians and humanitari­an workers in Syria since 2013 — a pattern of illegal attacks in which Russia and Syria shell or strike a spot where paramedics, such as the White Helmets, and civilians gather to help victims of an initial attack.

 ?? White Helmets Via Reuters ?? Members of the White Helmets, a Syrian first responder group, search for victims of airstrikes in Jisr al-shughour, in Idlib province. The region is home to millions of people who have been displaced by war multiple times. This photo was supplied by the White Helmets.
White Helmets Via Reuters Members of the White Helmets, a Syrian first responder group, search for victims of airstrikes in Jisr al-shughour, in Idlib province. The region is home to millions of people who have been displaced by war multiple times. This photo was supplied by the White Helmets.

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