image Photo: Reuters

Civil War flares in Syria

Eyewitnesses report the bombing of several towns by Russian jets in the last rebel-held bastion of Idlib.

By Erin Viner

War planes identified by aerial tracking centers as Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs from high altitudes on the overcrowded northwestern Syrian city on Sunday, marking a surge of violence at the start of 2022.

Syria’s Civil Defense Service reported that 2 children and a woman were killed and 10 civilians wounded in a series of raids after midnight on Saturday on makeshift camps that house thousands of displaced families near Jisr al Shuqhur, west of Idlib. There were no reports of deaths or injuries in other attacks on villages in the Jabal al-Zawiya region in the southern part of Idlib province.

While no human casualties were reported in strikes on livestock and poultry farms close to the Bab al Hawa border crossing with Turkey, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported yesterday that “since Russian fighter jets started to target poultry farm in the ‘de-escalation zone’ in September 2021, they have destroyed ten poultry farms and killed 26,000 birds, cows and sheep and other animals.”

An official at Idlib’s water utility service said it has been unable to function as a result of the strikes.

United Nations Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Cutts confirmed that a main water pumping station was “badly damaged” in the aerial assault on Idlib, which has a wider population of over a million includes displaced Syrians.

“Continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians,” the senior UN official wrote on Twitter, demanding that, “Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop.”

There were no immediate comments from Russia, which is the strongest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his nation’s Civil War. The Syrian Armed Forces has previously stated that it targets militant groups who control the region, but deny any attacks on civilians.

There has been a relative suspension in air strikes since November 2021, when a renewed Moscow-led campaign followed by the deployment of Turkish military reinforcements inside the enclave had raised concern over the prospect of a wider resumption of violence. Ankara backs opposition groups in the conflict.

Russia and Turkey reached agreement reached nearly 2 years ago to end fighting that had displaced more than a million people within just months.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed since outbreak of Civil War in 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters. The UN estimates that more than six million Syrians were internally displaced by the fighting, while around five million others fled into other countries. The vast majority fled into Turkey, while hundreds of thousands of others sought refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa.