UK denounces ‘appalling’ day of attacks killing scores of civilians in Syria’s Idlib

Britain said 50 people died in attacks on markets in Maarat Al Numan and Saraqeb

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Members of the Syrian civil defence, known as the White Helmets, carry away on a stretcher a victim who was pulled out of the rubble of a collapsed building following reported air strikes by pro-regime forces on Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on July 23, 2019.   / AFP / Omar HAJ KADOUR
Powered by automated translation

The UK government condemned “appalling attacks” in which more than 50 civilians died in Syria’s north-west Idlib province on Monday.

Britain’s special envoy to Syria, Martin Longden, said the attacks on markets in Maarat Al Numan and Saraqeb were “one of the deadliest days” in the months’ long offensive by the Syrian regime and its allies against Idlib.

Idlib is one of the last remaining enclaves under the control of fighters opposed to the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

“We have continuously called on Russia and the regime in the UN Security Council to explain the repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools – all places in which civilians should be safe," Mr Longden said.

"We are yet to receive an adequate or reasonable explanation."

Over 24 weeks, Damascus and its Russian allies have regularly bombed schools, hospitals and other civilian buildings in Idlib.

The onslaught has caused an outcry from the international community and activists.

The rebels in Idlib, many of them aligned with hardline factions, have repelled ground assaults on the area.

More than 650 civilians have died in the crossfire and 330,000 have been forced to flee their homes, the UN said.

Britain has renewed its calls for a ceasefire in Idlib.

Fighting in the province has undermined a September 2018 deal to create a demilitarised area maintained by Turkey and Russia.

“We continue to call on the parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law,” Mr Longden said. “The ceasefire must be restored to prevent further suffering."

Turkey, regarded by many civilians in Idlib as their protector, said it was up to Russia to stop the attacks, Reuters reported.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday that its warplanes had not been involved in the attacks on Maarat Al Numan or Saraqeb, or in any recent sorties over Idlib.