Two civilians dead in Russian strikes in northwest Syria

AFP , Wednesday 23 Aug 2023

At least two civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit an abandoned water pumping station in Syria's rebel-held northwest, rescuers said Wednesday, amid a recent uptick in attacks by Damascus ally Moscow.

A girl stands amidst debris after at least two civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit an abandoned water pumping station in Syria s rebel-held northwest, on August 23, 2023. AFP


Two strikes late Tuesday near Ain Shib, west of the city of Idlib, hit the facility where displaced Syrians had been living, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

"Two men, both civilians, were killed... and five other civilians including a woman and two children were wounded" in the strikes, said Rami al-Dandal, a volunteer with the White Helmets rescue group.

One of the dead was 18 years old and the other was elderly, he told AFP.

Moscow's intervention in Syria's war since 2015 has helped Damascus claw back much of the territory it lost to rebel forces early in the 12-year civil conflict.

The rebel-held Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced from other parts of the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the strikes near Ain Shib had targeted "military bases belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)", the jihadist group that controls the bastion.

It reported the same death toll.

Other late-night Russian strikes targeted the town of Ariha, south of Idlib city, AFP's correspondent and the Observatory said.

Jihadist group HTS, led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls swathes of Idlib province as well as parts of the adjacent Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

Earlier Tuesday, Russian air strikes targeting a rebel base north of Idlib city killed three members of HTS, while seven other fighters and five civilians were wounded, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

HTS regularly carries out deadly attacks on soldiers and pro-government forces, and Russian forces have repeatedly struck the Idlib area.

Russian air strikes on the outskirts of Idlib city on Monday killed 13 HTS fighters and wounded several others.

On August 5, three family members, all civilians, were killed when Russian warplanes struck the outskirts of Idlib, the Observatory said at the time.

Those strikes targeted a former HTS base nearby that the jihadists had abandoned several weeks earlier, it added.

On June 25, Russian air strikes killed at least 13 people including nine civilians in Idlib province.

Syria's war broke out in 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad's repression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations escalated into a deadly conflict that pulled in foreign powers and jihadists insurgents.

The war has killed more than half a million people and forced around half of Syria's pre-war population from their homes.

Since 2020, a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and rebel-backer Turkey has largely held in Syria's northwest, despite periodic clashes.

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