Damascus and its allies continue to assault Idlib on Friday despite it being designated a ‘de-escalation zone’ in which acts of aggression are expressly prescribed. Local sources said that the strikes were carried out by the regime and Russia.
Air strikes on opposition-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria killed at least 25 civilians, the Syrian Civil Defence said on Friday.
The strikes were carried out by forces loyal to the Bashar al Assad regime and the Russian military, one of the long-standing supporters of the regime in the war-torn country, the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, told Anadolu Agency.
Anees Diab, spokesman of the civil defence in Khan Shaykhun, said at least 20 civilians were killed in Urum al Kubra, a rural area west of Aleppo, in air strikes by Russian military jets.
Another five civilians were killed in Assad regime air strikes on areas near Khan Shaykhun district and Tuh village.
The military jets also attacked the neighborhoods of Khan Shaykhun, al Tamaniah and Sukayk, and Turkmen region in Latakia, said Diab.
Late last month, regime leader Bashar al Assad told Russia’s TASS news agency that Idlib would be the “next target,” describing the region’s roughly four million civilian residents as “terrorists.”
Located in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border, Idlib was in May designated in an agreement brokered between the opposition and the regime by Turkey, Russia and Iran as a “de-escalation zone.”
To secure the de-escalation zone, Turkey established 12 observation posts inside Idlib, while Russian soldiers protect its external boundaries
Under the truce, acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.
The war killed at least 400,000 people, according to monitors. More than 11 million — or half of Syria's pre-war population — have been displaced from their homes, according to the UN, including some 5.6 million who have been made refugees abroad.
One million at risk
A battle between regime forces and opposition for Idlib could affect the lives of more than one million children, many of whom live in refugee camps, the UN's children's agency warned on Friday.
Food, water and medicine are already in short supply in the largely rural province, which is now home to over one million Syrians displaced from their homes by regime offensives in other parts of the country, said UNICEF.
The agency said a battle for Idlib, the last major bastion for Syria's political and military opposition, would exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation there and potentially displace 350,000 children.
The regime dropped leaflets across the province on Thursday, urging residents to reconcile with its rule. Officials have warned that regime forces will take back the province by force if necessary.
According to Syrian civil-defence officials, regime forces have been using internationally-banned weapons, including barrel bombs and phosphorous munitions, resulting in heavy civilian casualties.