Russian warplanes bomb Syria’s Idlib

BOMB-Hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib are already experiencing dire conditions

BOMB-Hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib are already experiencing dire conditions

Russian warplanes have reportedly bombed the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, as government troops mass ahead of what may be a major offensive.

If confirmed, they would be the first such air strikes there in three weeks.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump warned Syria’s Bashar al-Assad against launching a “reckless attack” on Idlib.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the warning and said the Syrian army was “getting ready” to clear a “cradle of terrorism” there.

Mr Peskov said the al-Qaeda-linked jihadists dominating Idlib were threatening Russian military bases in Syria and blocking a political solution to the civil war.

The UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if an all-out assault takes place.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that Russian jets had carried out about 30 raids on about 16 rebel-held areas in western Idlib, the mountains of Latakia province, and the Sahl al-Ghab plain.

The pro-opposition Step News Agency reported Russian strikes on the villages of Inab, al-Janudiya, Tal Aawar, Sririf, Jadraya and al-Bariya.

A news outlet affiliated to the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) posted photographs showing plumes of smoke rising from several villages.

The Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are commonly known as the White Helmets, reported that three civilians had been killed in the strikes on Jisr al-Shughour.

The Syrian Observatory said the Russian air strikes were the first for 22 days and came hours after three pro-government fighters were killed by rebel rocketfire in the Jabal Turkmen area of Latakia.

Syrian army soldiers and allied militiamen have been gearing up for what has been described as a phased offensive on Idlib, the rebels’ last remaining stronghold.

HTS, which is designated by the UN as a terrorist organisation and has an estimated 10,000 fighters in Idlib, and rival rebel factions backed by neighbouring Turkey, have said they will fight back.

On Monday night, Mr Trump warned Russia and Iran, which has sent military advisers and thousands of militiamen to Syria, that they “would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy”.

On Tuesday, Mr Peskov questioned the US president’s approach to solving the problem of HTS and other jihadists operating in Idlib. -BBC

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