Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday; merely a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire. The world falls silent letting Putin kill civilians with impunity.
Idlib is home to 30,000 Jihadists, some with al-Qaeda connections, as well as three million civilians.
At least a dozen air strikes hit a string of villages and towns in southern Idlib. To include the town of Latamneh and Kafr Zeita in northern Hama where rebels are still in control.
Syrian helicopters dropped barrel bombs on homes on the outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib. Barrel bombs are crude devices filled with nails and pellets.
The United Nations investigators have extensively documented the use of barrel bombs by the army.
The Western-sponsored Syrian Civil Defense rescue service known as the White Helmets said they pulled four bodies, including a child, from the rubble of a building bombed by Russian planes in the village of Abdeen, near Khan Sheikhoun.
Russia says it avoids civilians and only targets radical al Qaeda inspired groups. The opposition and residents say most of the casualties in the last few days were civilians.
The opposition accuse Russia and its allies of striking at hospitals and civil defense centers to paralyze life and force rebels to surrender. Thus repeating earlier, large-scale military offensives. The world falls silent letting Putin kill civilians with impunity.
Hundreds of civilians were killed in Russian-backed bombing campaigns on the former besieged rebel stronghold of Ghouta near the capital Damascus this year and a recent offensive in southern Syria displaced tens of thousands.
A rescue worker said that after Russian bombed a hospital in the town of Hass it became inoperable.
Idlib’s two main rebel coalitions, the mainstream nationalist National Liberation Front, and a jihadist grouping known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, spearhead by a former al-Qaeda offshoot, say they were putting aside ideological differences to face a common threat.
Emad al Din Mojahed, spokesman for Hayat Tahrir al Sham, told Reuters:
There is coordination and cooperation with all the fighting factions to defend our people.
Rebels say the battle could be decisive and a defeat may bring the end of their over seven-year, armed rebellion against Assad.
Tehran and Moscow Own Syria
Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.
The United Nations fears a full-scale offensive could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians.
Merely Hollow Words à la Barack Obama
The White House said this week that U.S. President Donald Trump had warned that such attacks would be “a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict”. Furthermore, he also said the attacks would “risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
A U.S. State Department official said Washington was aware of reports of Russian and Syrian air strikes in Idlib in spite of warnings from the United States, the UN and others, and was closely monitoring the situation. The world falls silent letting Putin kill civilians with impunity.
A State Department official said:
Russia claims that it is targeting terrorists, but observers reported that only civilian casualties resulted from the strikes. This demonstrates that only a precise counterterrorism campaign can be effective. Indiscriminate regime and Russian military offensives will only continue to lead to humanitarian catastrophe.
The State Department official said the United States was continuing to engage the Russian government and military at senior levels “to make clear that such escalation must be avoided.”
The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond “swiftly and vigorously” if government forces used chemical weapons in the widely expected offensive.
Tens of thousands of Syrians living in rebel-held towns in Idlib took to the streets to protest the impending campaign. Protesters vowed they would never accept Assad’s rule and would resist any offensive to retake opposition areas.