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(FILE) Mseibin, south of the city of Idlib, Syria on 12 March 2020
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. H. Kadour

Russia carries out first Syria strikes in three months

June 3, 2020

The strikes were carried out on Idlib province on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They were the first strikes to be conducted by Russian forces since the signing of a truce in March.


Russian warplanes carried out the first airstrikes in three months in Syria's last remaining rebel stronghold, a war monitor said on Wednesday. 

The Russian strikes on Tuesday evening and at dawn on Wednesday hit an area in northwestern Syria, where the boundaries of Hama, Idlib and Latakia provinces meet, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS), led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, still maintains a large presence in the area, the group added. 

The strikes on and near Idlib province were the first to be conducted in the region by Russian planes since a truce ushered relative calm into the region in early March, the monitor said. 

The truce, between Turkey and Russia, stopped a three-month air and ground campaign that saw hundreds killed and over 1 million displaced people fleeing to the Turkish border. About 840,000 of the million remain displaced, while around 120,000 have returned to their home communities since the truce came into force, according to the United Nations.

The truce, which coincided with the start of the coronavirus, had put a temporary stop to the airstrikes conducted by government forces and their Russian allies, which killed over 500 civilians in four months. 

In recent days, both Turkey and Syria have been sending reinforcements to the region, and there have been repeated violations of the truce on the ground in recent weeks, according to the monitor. 

The latest strikes were reportedly intended to push HTS and its allies away from the Sahl al-Ghab area in the north of Hama province, where government and Russian forces maintain a presence. They were additionally meant to push jihadists away from the key M4 highway, where Turkish and Russian forces often conduct joint patrols. 

Multiple opposition activists also confirmed the claims of airstrikes. Idlib-based activist Taher al-Omar said Russian warplanes fired missiles that caused wide destruction, but gave no indication of casualties. Another activist, Hadi Abdullah, said Wednesday's strikes hit a mountain region in Latakia province on the edge of Idlib, and a power station on the northern edge of Hama province.

Nearly half of the three million people living in the Idlib region have been displaced from other parts of Syria recaptured by government forces. 

The monitor group on Tuesday reported that the month of May saw the lowest civilian death toll, 71, since the start of the war in Syria, which has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country's pre-war population since it began in 2011.

Syria: First war, now COVID-19

lc/stb (AFP, AP)

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