Russian and Syrian jets have stepped up strikes on villages and towns in Idlib Province where thousands of people have fled to the relative safety of the Turkish border fearing an imminent assault. In the meantime, Syrian air defenses opened fire Sunday night on missiles fired from inside Israel. While Russia attacked Syrian civilians, Israel was attacking Syrian and Iranian military positions inside Syria.
One country’s barbarism is mirrored by another country’s precision to avoid killing civilians.
CIVILIANS FLEE TOWARDS TURKEY
Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, reported shelling and airstrikes on rebel-held villages in Idlib on Sunday.
The province of Idlib has been at the center of a Syrian forces’ push under the cover of airstrikes in recent weeks, with more than a dozen villages captured.
The offensive has already forced tens of thousands of civilians to abandon their homes and flee. This includes thousands who crossed into neighboring Turkey seeking safety. The attacks against civilians resumed after a cease-fire in force since the end of August collapsed recently. Turkey has backed Syrian rebels in the neighboring country’s civil war, now in its ninth year.
Saraqeb and Maaret al-Numan are two major rebel-held towns on the highway linking Damascus with Aleppo. The aerial strikes have emptied the two towns of civilians since becoming the target of the offensive. The Assad regime, with help from Russia, are attempting to reopen the highway, closed since 2012.
Syrian troops, advancing from the east toward Maaret al-Numan, neared the Turkish observation post outside the village of Surman from three sides. The Step news agency, an activist collective, said the government troops were now about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Turkish post.
ISRAELI AERIAL STRIKES CONTINUE
As Assad and Putin push to open the highway by targeting civilians, Israel continues to target Iranian and Syrian military positions and weapons that threaten its security.
Syrian state TV gave no further details about the Israeli missile attacks; but residents of Damascus said explosions could be heard near the capital. State TV said one of the Israeli missiles was shot down near the Damascus suburb of Aqraba.
What makes the Assad regime believe Israel fired the missiles from inside its territories is not clear
There was also no immediate comment from Israel.
Activists said the missile attack targeted Iranian and Syrian military positions near Damascus.
There were no immediate reports on casualties.
In neighboring Lebanon, people could hear Israeli warplanes flying in the country’s airspace at the time of the airstrikes in Syria. Damascus had said in the past that Israeli warplanes have fired missiles into Syria from Lebanon’s airspace.
What makes the Assad regime believe Israel fired the missiles from inside its territories is not clear.
Last month, Israel said it struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in a “wide-scale” operation in response to rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before.
Israel has repeatedly struck Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years. It repeatedly warned against any permanent Iranian presence on the frontier.
Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
In November, Israel killed a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group in the Gaza Strip, setting off two days of heavy fighting. A separate airstrike targeted but failed to kill an Islamic Jihad leader in Damascus.
Reuters and AP contributed to this article.