Air strikes in Syria's Idlib kill at least 13, dozens wounded

The 12-year-long conflict still simmers in the country's northern governorates

A plume of smoke rises from a building during a reported Russian air strike on Syria's northwestern rebel-held Idlib province. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Two air strikes in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian governorate of Idlib killed at least 13 people on Sunday, in what witnesses said was an attack on a market and a building near the city of Idlib.

The Syrian government said it had targeted a militant outpost in co-ordination with Russian aircraft.

Two of the dead were children, locals told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in the UK with a wide network of sources across Syria.

The observatory said a separate air strike near the city of Idlib had killed a rebel fighter and a number of civilians, while three militant fighters had been killed in an attack near the market, which killed six civilians.

“These Russian strikes are the deadliest in Syria this year and amount to a massacre,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the organisation.

He claimed that Russian and Syrian forces conducted the air strikes in response to two drone attacks by militants that killed four civilians, including an attack in Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's hometown of Salhab that killed a mother and child.

In mid-June, a mysterious explosion also claimed the life of a Russian soldier in the nearby Aleppo governorate.

Accounts of the June 13 attack vary, from a mortar attack to a roadside bomb. No side has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Market bombed

Saad Fato, a 35-year-old labourer who survived the strike on the market, told AFP he helped efforts to try to rescue the wounded.

“Russians shells rained on us,” he said, recounting that he was unloading tomatoes and cucumbers at the time of the attack.

“It was indescribable, seeing the dead, the wounded,” he said, his hands still covered with the blood of casualties.

That fighter who was killed near Idlib city was a member of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Uyghur-dominated jihadist group, Mr Abdel Rahman said, adding that the parents of the dead children also belonged to that group.

At least 30 civilians were wounded in Sunday's strikes, said Mr Abdel Rahman, who added that the death toll was likely to rise.

Ahmed Yazigi of the civil defence in Jisr Al Shughur earlier reported that the strikes killed nine people, without specifying whether the toll included fighters.

Jisr Al Shughur has long been a hotbed of anti-government sentiment and was the scene of some of the worst violence between the regime on one side, and anti-government groups and protesters opposing them in 2011. Before then, the rural area, the surrounding Idlib governorate and nearby Aleppo were the scene of a bloody uprising against Damascus in the early 1980s.

Now Idlib is dominated by militant Islamist groups, while nearby swathes of Syria’s border with Turkey are controlled by Turkish-backed Islamist militias. The conflict in the north of the country has simmered for years, with neither side strong enough to finally determine control of the terrain.

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

The Assad regime, with Russian and Iranian support, has clawed back much of the ground lost early in Syria's conflict which erupted in 2011 when it brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.

On Saturday, a Russian air strike killed two civilians in the Idlib region.

Updated: June 25, 2023, 6:46 PM