Syria and Russia pound last rebel strongholds of Idlib
Beirut — Regime and Russian air raids pounded Syria’s last major rebel bastion of Idlib on Sunday after an overnight lull, killing at least one child, a monitor said.
It was the second day of bombardment on the jihadist and rebel-held province and adjacent areas, after key powerbrokers in Tehran failed to reach a deal to avert an assault.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said heavy attacks resumed on the northwestern region near the Turkish border at about midday on Sunday. "Regime helicopters dropped more than 60 barrel bombs on the village of Hobait in Idlib’s southern countryside, killing at least one young girl" and wounding six other people, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
In the neighbouring province of Hama, Russian jets carried out more than 10 strikes on rebel positions in the village of al-Latamneh, he said.
The raids wounded five rebels and knocked the village’s underground hospital out of action, just a day after strikes damaged a similar health facility in Idlib’s southern town of Hass.
Some of the heaviest bombardment in weeks hit Idlib and nearby areas on Saturday, killing at least nine civilians, the observatory said.
More than half of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate, while most of the rest is held by rival rebels.
HTS and rebels are also present in adjacent areas of the neighbouring provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.
Hundreds of families have fled Idlib’s southeastern areas since Saturday, when Russian and regime strikes on the region were the most violent in a month, the observatory said.
Idlib’s health chief, Munzer al-Khalil, said on Saturday that he fears "the most catastrophic crisis" in the seven-year war in Syria. He said he had travelled to Geneva to urge diplomats and UN officials to help prevent a "catastrophe".
The UN has warned that any military campaign in Idlib could push up to 800,000 people to flee their homes.
The leaders of regime allies Russia and Iran met with the president of rebel backer Turkey in Tehran on Friday but failed to reach an agreement to avoid a military assault.
The rebel-held region of Idlib and adjacent areas are home to almost 3-million people, half of whom have been displaced from other areas in the country, according to the UN.
Regime troops have been massing around Idlib for weeks, after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime retook control of other areas of the country earlier in 2018.