Scores of civilians in the Syrian Governate of Idlib have reportedly been killed in a renewed bombing campaign by government forces and its Russian allies on Wednesday (January 15).
The aerial assault was launched despite a truce that went into effect early Sunday in the embattled northwestern province. The agreement was mediated by Moscow – which supports the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad, and Ankara – which backs rebel forces in the 8-year civil war.
The primary source of aid to Idlib is the UN, which is now cautioning against the increased risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.
The White Helmet Civil Defense group posted a tweet, reading “21 innocent people have lost their lives today, and 82 others have been injured, as a result of the regime/Russian terrorist attacks on #Idlib and #Ariha market and many other places in northern #syria. The number of dead will climb as many are critically injured.”
Turkey had pushed hard for the cessation in hostilities after an estimated one million civilian refugees flocked towards its border with Syria, seeking refuge from months of relentless attacks by the Syrian and Russian militaries, alongside several Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside them.
A previous ceasefire in late August 2019 had been established after the killing of more than 1,000 civilians in four months, according to the United Nations.
A September 2018 agreement between Ankara and Moscow declared Idlib as a ‘de-escalation zone’ where any ‘acts of aggression’ were to be expressly prohibited, although since that time more than 1,300 civilians there have been killed in Syrian and Russian attacks.
Eyewitnesses and opposition sources reported that yesterday’s bombardment by Russian jets targeted the last rebel bastion in southern Idlib for the first time since a two-day lull in violence. Aerial strikes pounded the towns of Khan al Subl, Maasaran and several others.
The White Helmets and Macro Media Center captured brutal images of casualties on video, that have been uploaded online by the emergency response group.
Moscow says its forces, along with the Syrian army and, are fending off terror attacks by al Qaeda – who they have accused of attacks against populated, government-held areas.
A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement expressing deep concern over the safety of Syrian civilians. Stephane Dujarric stressed that, “The UN urges all parties, and those with influence over those parties, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”